Impact of ANCSA in the Arctic Slope
Taking Control: Fact or Fiction?
A curriculum unit plan by Pat Aamodt
Message to Students of the North Slope Borough from Mayor Jeslie Kaleak
Although it happened many years ago, before any of you were even born, I remember well a certain day in the late summer of 1967. On this day, for the first time in my life, I was pulled from my family and community, put on an airplane and sent to a place 3,000 miles away from my Barrow home.
I would spend nine months of each of the next three years attending boarding school in Chemawa, Oregon. I remember how homesick I felt, especially for the first three months. For the first time in my life, I would miss the great community feasts which our people share together each Christmas and Thanksgiving. As my relatives and friends back in Barrow gathered together over shares of whale, caribou, geese and frozen fish, I would sit down to a table to eat cafeteria food. I would miss the winter Eskimo games, and the spring festival. When the crews ventured out onto the spring ice to cut trail and to get ready to hunt the bowhead whale, I could not join them.
During all of this time, I would be far from my family.
Still, I was not alone. Many of your parents experienced the same type of thing. In those days, any Inupiat student who wanted to get a high school education had to travel far; if not to Chemawa, then perhaps to Mount Edgecumbe or another boarding school far from the Arctic. Our parents and grandparents knew that many changes were coming to our land, and that we needed education if we ever hoped to deal with these changes. We did learn. At Chemawa, we were exposed to many things we had never seen before. We learned to live in a structured society, where there was a certain time for everything. We had work details to perform such as floors to mop, and dishes to wash. If we got lazy, then our free time was taken from us. No movies, no dances, no recreation.
We learned how the western world worked.
It was a good education. It was knowledge we needed to learn.
Yet, our leaders, the very same people who encouraged us to get this education, also realized there were other things we had to learn, subjects we could study only at home. You can't learn how to catch a bowhead whale in Chemawa, Oregon, no matter how good your teachers are.
Even as I attended my classes, these leaders were hard at work fighting for the land and rights of the lnupiat people. Out of this fight came many things - land claims, regional and village corporations, and, of course, the North Slope Borough. This is why students today have fine schools to attend in each village. This is why all of you have the opportunity to graduate from high school right in your own village, with your family and all of your friends watching.
Our people are fortunate to have leaders who foresaw the need to form the North Slope Borough. This Borough provided the self-government needed to better the lifestyle of the Inupiat people on the North Slope. Out of this government have come not only schools to the 12th grade in every village, but housing, medical clinics. fire protection, and municipal services. Self government has given us the power we need to protect our culture, and our priceless animals and land from threats which could have taken them from us.
This gift given to us from our past and present leaders is something we all should treasure in our hearts. Without the involvement of these leaders, we would still be living in third world conditions today.
Although the whole history of the North Slope Borough is too large to compress into so small a book as this, I hope this will help you gain a better understanding of how the good things available to you every day came to be. It has been a hard struggle, with rough times along the way. Many challenges lie ahead of us. It will take commitment, courage, education, and hard work on your part to meet the challenges the people of the Arctic will face in the future.
So, study hard. Learn your book work well, but please, take the time to listen to the Elders. Venture out onto the ice and tundra, to learn the ways of the animals, and how to hunt.
We will need your help in the future.
Mayor Jeslie Kaleak, Sr.
How It Was Back Then
Life had few comforts, children had to go far to attend school, and, out in the country, people from distant places were coming in to do whatever they wanted, and to claim the ancient wealth of the Inupiat homeland for themselves.
Young people living within the North Slope Borough today might not realize just what an amazing place their homeland truly is. Here, the ancient and the modern blend together in a way that is unparalleled anywhere else in the country. Here, hunters paddle after bowhead whales in umiaqs (ugruk covered skin boats) just as their ancestors did centuries ago. To feed their families, they also stalk caribou, hunt walrus and seal, and harvest a small number of the millions of ducks and geese that return to Arctic waters and wetlands each summer.
To Native Americans living outside of Alaska, this kind of lifestyle has been forever lost.
Yet, students on the North Slope also expect to wake up each morning in a warm house, turn on a tap and get water. If their homes are not part of the Barrow utilidor system, they benefit from daily water delivery and sewage pick-up services. They climb into warm buses and venture off to schools which are as fine as any in the country. There, they learn academic skills, work with computers, television equipment, swim in heated pools when it is 40 below outside, and hold conferences with fellow students living in villages hundreds of miles away. Thanks to the wonder of compressed video, they not only talk to these distant friends, they see them as well. In the evening and on weekends, athletes engage in vigorous games of basketball and volleyball, staged in spacious gymnasiums.
They board airplanes, then travel to the other villages, and to Anchorage and Fairbanks, to compete against the best ball players, runners, and wrestlers from throughout Rural Alaska.
If they or their family members fall ill, staff at clean, well equipped clinics are nearby to give them care; if they need treatment beyond the capabilities of the clinic, there are fast aircraft ready to land on large, constantly maintained airports to rush them to doctor and hospital facilities in Barrow or even to Fairbanks or Anchorage.
Trucks and cars of all makes traverse the fine roads which lace every village. Dirty clothes can be taken to village washeterias, to be cleaned at a reasonable price. Each North Slope community benefits from a strong cash economy, which creates many permanent and temporary jobs. There is money to buy snow- machines, clothing, toys, bicycles, television sets, video players, cable tv subscriptions, and a wide variety of foods to supplement the traditional diet.
Among all these things, none are more important to the young people than are the schools. Most students take it for granted that they can go through all 12 grades without ever leaving home. In these schools, their culture and who they are will not be mocked and suppressed, but revered and encouraged. They will not be punished for speaking their own language, but will be encouraged, and even taught how to do so if this is something that has been lost to them. Should they choose to go on to college or vocational school, their efforts will be met with much support.
In fact, not only can they complete high school without leaving the North Slope, they can go all the way through the first two years of college.
This is how it is today. Young people can hardly be blamed if they take it for granted, and seem to think this is how it has always been.
Just a short time ago, things were very different. Schools were poorly equipped and did not offer classes beyond the elementary grades. School policy was set by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs. While some very concerned educators, such as Fred Ipalook, Margaret Gray, Harold Kavelook and Tony Joule worked hard to see that local students received the best education possible, others came with poor qualifications, and little understanding or concern for local customs and tradition. Local parents often found they had little say in their children's education, and not much power battling policies established thousands of miles away. Students were punished for speaking their own language, and their Native culture was made to seem inferior to that of an invading world; something that must be put aside and forgotten.
Students who desired a high school education had to travel to boarding schools hundreds, even thousands of miles from home. The traditional part of their education was severely neglected. At boarding school, they had no opportunity to follow their fathers and grandfathers on the whale hunt, or to help cut up and prepare maktak and mikigaq. They did not learn how to prepare skins and sew the warm clothing that, to this day, remains the best protection against the Arctic cold.
The young people lived in homes constructed largely of driftwood and scrap lumber left by the military, and from the timbers of old shipwrecks. Fires broke out frequently in these structures. Most often, the equipment was not available to fight the fires, and the homes burned to the ground. On a per capita basis, more people were killed in accidental fires on the North Slope than anywhere else in the world. Modern medical care was often days away, if it could be had at all. Water had to be scooped or chopped from freshwater lakes. There was no good, sanitary disposal system for honey buckets. Roads did not exist in the villages. There were no cars and trucks. A village was lucky to have even one phone, and, if it did, the voices on that phone would come across scratchy and broken.
Village airstrips were too short to serve anything but bush planes. Pilots had no navigational aids to guide them into these strips when the weather was poor, which was often.
Other than periodic work at the military outposts, such as the Dewline stations and the Naval Arctic Research Laboratory, there were few jobs to be had. Parents did not have money to buy their children much beyond what was necessary to sustain their lives.
The Federal Field Committee Report, funded by the United States government in the late 1960's, revealed that, along with other rural regions of Alaska, the economy of the North Slope was the poorest in the nation. It was no better than that of poverty-stricken nations in the Third World.
Considering the fact that the lnupiat people had survived in good fashion in the Arctic for thousands of years before there was a U.S. government or a cash economy, to some, this might not have seemed such a bad thing.
The Inupiat people of the North Slope could go on living off of the whales, the caribou, the ducks, and the other marine mam mals, just as they always had.
Yet, even this natural part of North Slope life was threatened with destruction. Rights and traditions thousands of years old were on the edge of being forever lost to the people of the Arctic.
The Inupiat people had always had their own unwritten laws for governing themselves. Under these traditional laws, the peo- ple managed the wild animals of the Arctic, and kept order in their villages and camps. Look, for example, at one important law of the Nunamiut, who now have a permanent village at Anaktuvuk Pass, followed to govern the caribou hunt.
During the fall migration, the first group of caribou to enter the pass were not allowed to be hunted, or harassed in any way. It did not matter if the hunters had not tasted fresh meat for a very long time. Even if this lead group of caribou trotted right up to the hunters, the hunters could not kill them. They must let them go. It was not written down on paper. yet this was the law and there was good reason for it.
The Nunamiut knew that if something scared that first group of caribou, all the animals would turn and flee. They might find another valley in which to cross through the mountains. All the tens of thousands of caribou behind them would follow, out of reach of the hunters. The Nunamiut would then face great hardships in their efforts to find game and feed their families.
Yet, if the first group journeyed through the pass unharmed, all of the tens of thousands of migrating caribou would follow. Even though they were being hunted, they would not change their course. They would stay in the pass. There would be an abundance of meat to feed the Nunamiut.
Though there were no policemen or jails, the people also had laws forbidding crimes such as stealing. Offenders would be dealt with by the elders and spiritual leaders. They would be made to feel so ashamed about what they had done, they would do it no more. This method was so effective that, again and again, early groups of explorers, whalers, and missionaries remarked with amazement about the unparalleled honesty they found among the lnupiat people.
Even the most valuable possessions, left alone and unprotected would be left alone. There was great honor among the Inupiat society. People simply did not steal. Again, this law was not written down on paper, but everyone knew it was the law, and they obeyed it.
Unfortunately, the outside world did not recognize nor respect the Inupiat laws. Government leaders and lawyers from outside looked at the Far North, and did not see legal papers, nor deeds of property; they did not see lawyers, courts, and jails. They did not see roads and farms, nor towns and cities spread across the landscape. The Arctic Slope, they reasoned among themselves, was an empty, unpopulated region; a place with no government.
Although the early Russian explorers had never come to the North Slope, they had stopped and built settlements in many other parts of what is now known as Alaska. They had conquered some of the Native people along the way, and had even made slaves of a group of Aleuts who they removed from their homes and placed on the Pribilof Islands to harvest fur seals for the profit of Russia. This, they believed, gave them the right to lay claim to all of Alaska, including the Arctic. They then sold that claim to the United States.
Seeing no papers or lawyers among the people of the Arctic, and seeing what they considered to be a desolate, empty land, many leaders in the government and in the military believed they could come to North Slope and do whatever they pleased.
They felt no need to seek any kind of permission from the people already living here.
Soon, the hunters found themselves facing many hardships. Oil exploration rigs ran across the land of the Inupiat, conducting seismic tests. Oil lease sales were held by the State of Alaska at Prudhoe Bay. Although the Inupiat had been camping, hunting, and fishing on the involved lands for untold centuries, their permission was not sought nor were they consulted in anyway. When, in one day, those lease sales generated $900,000 in revenue for the state, the money all went south. None of it stayed to benefit the people whose resources were being sold. The military and the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission had earlier moved into Cape Thompson. This was where the people of Point Hope went to gather murre eggs, to hunt caribou, birds, and marine mammals, and to fish.
Point Hope was the oldest, continually occupied village in North America. Yet, when these officials decided to detonate nuclear explosives as much as 250 times more powerful then the Atomic bomb which destroyed the Japanese city of Hiroshima, they did not even bother to ask the people of Point Hope what they thought about the idea.
With no input from the Inupiat, people from far away passed laws and signed treaties which forbade the Inupiat to hunt ducks. Yet, here, ducks were hunted as a vital spring food source. These same laws allowed sports hunters living in California to shoot the ducks just for fun.
Sport hunters also were discovering that the North Slope was a fine place to hunt game. When sport hunters found caribou on the high plain in front of the Brooks Range, they had no qualms against firing at the first animals they spotted. A single shot could turn a herd, and change the entire season for the hunters of Anaktuvuk Pass. No one living here in the North had any say about it.
This is how things were in the Arctic, just prior to the formation of the North Slope Borough.
ASNA - The Beginning
A Time to Claim What Has Always Been Yours
"First of all," Joseph Upicksoun, who became involved with the Arctic Slope Native Association in 1968, explains, "I had a strong belief that we had, as lnupiat, and always had, complete dominion over the Arctic in Alaska."
Survival had always been a challenge on the North Slope. Mastering the skills needed to live here had required resourceful thinking and tough action. It probably never occurred to the officials in government and the oil industry that their intrusions into the Arctic would be greeted by the same kind of tough, resourceful action by the Native people living here. Yet, the Inupiat were not going to simply sit back and let their ancient homeland be torn from their domain.
In the 1960's, the Reverend Samuel Simmonds served his Inupiat people as a minister in the Presbyterian Church. To the people living further south, the North Slope may have seemed an empty, desolate place, a region with with no government. Who was going to stop them from moving in, taking all the oil and gas, and doing whatever they wanted with little thought given to the concerns of "a handful of Eskimos"?
Reverend Simmonds saw the North Slope as more than a desolate oil and gas reserve. It was a homeland rich with the animals which had given life to his people. It was a place where there had always been government. There may not have been laws written down on paper, nor high-priced lawyers to argue about what the paper actually said, but there had been commonly understood rules to live by.
"The village was governed by a village council," Simmonds recalls his younger days. "The village was governed by itself, not from the outside. The council was chosen at an annual town meeting. There were seven members. I happened to be one of the council. We dealt mostly with village concerns, something like, if whaling was getting under way, and if there was a need to do things like get out on the ice and build trail, the village council would make sure these things were done.
"We had no public safety back then, no jails. When some things happen, like if there were mishaps, or if somebody did something wrong, then the village council would counsel them, toward better ways of living." A youth who had taken the property of another would be met with what Simmonds describes as "the frowning of the village". Even though it was not a jail sentence, the frowning of the village is a real punishment. It is hard to live with. If someone has taken something from someone, they will return the goods.
"The church Elders were also really respected in those days. If they see someone breaking the rules, they will step in, and meet with this person. I feel it was a pretty good way of correcting."
Even so, Simmonds could see that some thing more was needed to deal with the outside world. "We were beginning to feel pressed by outsiders coming on our hunting areas," he explains. "We were beginning to see we could actually be penned in, right in our own home." The oil companies exploring in the Prudhoe Bay area and NPR-4 gave no thought to the village council, or to the Elders of the Church. "They were pretty much independent, doing their own thing. We hardly have any say. They travel in the summer time, not caring about the land. They tear up the land, expose the per- mafrost with their plows. We hardly have any say. We had to start doing some things for the betterment of our community. I could see that if we don't do anything, we could be pressed out or penned in."
This desire would lead Reverend Simmonds to play a major role in shaping the future of the North Slope, and to advance the drive for Native land claims all across Alaska. In the 1960's, the search was on for the largest reservoir of oil in North America - over 10 billion barrels at Prudhoe Bay, deep in the heart of the Inupiat homeland. Inupiat people hunted, trapped, and fished at Prudhoe Bay. They had camps and cabins where oil wells would sprout, and their dead lay in the ground. The Inupiat claim to Prudhoe Bay was ancient, extending backwards in time far beyond the day when Christopher Columbus set sail for America, or when the Russians struck a claim upon an lnupiat homeland they had never seen.
Yet, the State of Alaska held a lease sale to give energy companies the right to explore for oil in this homeland, without ever asking the Inupiat. In one day, nearly $1 billion in lease sale revenue was generated by the State for the State from this Inupiat resource. In response, Simmonds would become one of three men to organize ASNA, and to press the ancient Inupiat claim over the Arctic.
It was Charlie Edwardsen, Jr., - Etok - who actually initiated our claim," Simmonds says.
Anxious to stop the trespass of the oil companies and the State into his homeland, Edwardsen got together with Simmonds and Guy Okakok.
Okakok had gained statewide recognition reporting for the Fairbanks Daily News Miner and the Tundra Times. His work had brought widespread attention and condemnation to Project Chariot, helping to stop the governments plans to detonate nuclear bombs at Cape Thompson. Through his ministry, Simmonds had earned widespread respect and admiration.
In October of 1965, acting under the name of the Arctic Slope Native Association, Edwardsen. Okakok, and Simmonds claimed the land of the North Slope for Inupiat people. Coupled with Etok's angry fire, Okakok and Simmonds brought great moral weight to the effort. In the claim, the three gave notice to the Governor of Alaska that the lnupiat of the Arctic Slope were the owners of all Alaska from the continental divide of the Brooks Range to the Arctic Ocean.
"I was more than happy to do it," Simmonds says.
According to the minutes of an ASNA meeting held on January 15, 1966 Charles Edwardsen, Jr., opened with a brief summary of why the Inupiat had the right to all the lands of Alaska between Point Hope and the Canadian border, north from the Brooks Range.
Edwardsen also noted that in 1867, the United States had made a deal with Russia for the Purchase of Alaska. He brought up the "Organic Act of 1884," under which Congress had guaranteed that the rights of Native people to their hunting and fishing lands would be protected.
Referring to a map hanging on the wall, Edwardsen pointed out traditional land use areas in every region of the North Slope. "Edwardsen, Jr.," the minutes say, "stated that near Noatak, it has been found that the fossils are 8,000 years old. He said there have been inhabitants around that area when Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt."
Along with the other participants, Edwardsen spoke in Inupiat. James Nageak, who was chosen to be secretary at the meeting, provided instantaneous translation in the writing of the minutes.
"We better start doing something about our land or else we won't be able to roam the country and hunt," Edwardsen is quoted in the minutes.
He then called for an election of officers for the new organization of the Arctic Slope Native Association. Abel Akpik, Samuel Simmonds, Charles Edwardsen, Jr., Hugh Nichols, and Guy Okakok are listed as the founding members.
Abel Akpik then read a letter from Seattle Attorney William Paul detailing his thoughts on what ASNA needed to do to claim the Inupiat homeland for the Inupiat people.
A huge portion of the North Slope had been set aside by the federal government as the Naval Petroleum Reserve - 4.
After the meeting was opened to the floor, Edward Hopson, Sr., "asked if the land would be hard to get from the Naval Reserve," the minutes state.
"Edwardsen, Jr., explained that the 99 year lease will be up in the near future. He also said that the fight for ownership of the land will be 'tough', but stated that we have a good chance of acquiring this land."
Perhaps the most emotional moment of the meeting followed. Noah Itta, who is now one of Barrow's respected Elders, was then a father who had long hunted the animals of the Arctic to feed his family. Itta spoke of his happiness that the Inupiat people were going to take action to protect their hunting grounds. He spoke of living off the land, and the hardships of doing so. Itta expressed his worry for the people in the small villages, who absolutely depended on the land for their subsistence.
Itta said "he was all for the idea of claiming the land so the Eskimos could still hunt where they please without having to trespass on someone else's land. Noah also said that his heart is lighter now since there was going to be something done about our land and the land of our ancestors."
Eddie Hopson asked if the land had already been claimed, and under what name.
"Yes," Edwardsen answered, "it has been claimed since only one person could claim for the Eskimos. The name of the organi- zation is "The Arctic Slope Native Association."
Eben Hopson, Sr., then asked if a lawyer had already been chosen. Edwardsen answered that William Paul, Sr., of Seattle, had been chosen. Paul, of Tlingit ancestry, had spent decades working on behalf of the claims of the Native people of Southeast Alaska.
Hopson did not agree with the choice of Paul. He argued in favor of hiring an Alaska based lawyer, pointing out that the Natives of Tyonek hired an Anchorage based lawyer, and settled their land claims within one year.
Edwardsen stood fast for Paul. "The Tyonek Natives had their problem settled in so short a time because they were on a reserva- tion," Edwardsen contended, pointing out that Paul had been chosen for his experience with the Tlingit people, who had no reservation.
On January 18, 1966, Paul filed the claim on behalf of ASNA in the U.S. Department of the Interior. The U.S. government, the State of Alaska, and the oil companies now knew that the Inupiat were going to fight for their ancient homeland.
Elsewhere in Alaska other Native groups were taking similar action. Yet, the State Government was eager to claim the 105 million acres of Alaska - including Prudhoe Bay - promised by the Federal government under the Statehood Act. ASNA's claim covered 58 million acres. Inspired by ASNA's actions, other Alaska Native groups were filing their own claims. Together, Alaska Natives claimed 380 million acres, virtually all of Alaska. Assisted by the Alaska Federation of Natives, they brought their claims before U.S. Interior Secretary Stewart Udall.
Udall recognized the validity of the Native claims, including ASNA's 58 million acres. In late 1966, he imposed a "land freeze" which prevented the State - or anyone else - from claiming one more acre of Alaska until the Native claims were settled.
Wally Hickel was serving his first, partial, term as governor. Hickel protested mightily against Udall's action. The freeze, Hickel contended, was a flagrant denial of the State's right to select its 105 million acres. Udall responded with a confirmation of the arguments of the members of ASNA: Russia's sale of whatever claim it held to Alaska to the US had not ended the right of the lnupiat to their traditional lands. Both the Statehood Act and the Organic Act of 1884 acknowledged Native land rights, Udall informed Hickel.
In a widely quoted passage, Udall explained: "In the face of Federal guarantee that the Alaska Natives shall not be disturbed in the use and occupation of lands, I could not in good conscience allow title to pass into other's hands... Moreover, to permit others to acquire title to the lands the Natives are using and occupying would create an adversary against whom the Natives would not have the means of protecting themselves."
In effect, Udall had said the Inupiat were, indeed the owners of the North Slope.
Hickel was not happy with this. The State of Alaska filed suit to force Udall to transfer Native ]ands to the State. Two years later, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the freeze, and left it to Congress to settle the land claims of the Alaska Native people.
Joseph Upicksoun joined ASNA in 1968. Upicksoun was born in the village of Point Lay, which, by now had all but ceased to exist. Outside of the government Dew Line workers, the only people still living there were Joe's step parents, Warren and Dorcas Neakok. One of Upicksoun's earliest memories is the dogsled trip he made at the age of four from Wainwright to Point Lay. Riding on the sled with him was a coffin, which contained the body of his mother. Later, his father, Allen Upicksoun married Dorcas, who raised Joe as though he were her natural born son. After the death of Allen, Dorcas married Warren.
Upicksoun attended the Point Lay BIA school through the eighth grade, At 11, he ventured off to boarding school in White Mountain. After graduating from high school, he went to sea with the Merchant Marines. At 19, he was drafted and sent to war in Korea. He quickly became a squad leader, and purposefully led his men into hostile fire to enable the U.S. artillery to locate the enemy, and destroy them.
After the war, Upicksoun found work on the Dewline, where he quickly became a supervisor. James Nageak recalls how impressed many ASNA members were to learn Upicksoun had been made boss over non Natives from the Lower 48. "We wanted him in ASNA," Nageak remembers. Finally, tired of moving from Dew station to Dew station, Joe settled down with his wife, Alice, to a well paying job with Barrow Utilities. He was ready to quietly raise his family, and to enjoy life. Then, according to Nageak, he and other members of ASNA sought to persuade Joe to enter their ranks, to join the battle for Inupiat land claims.
"You want me to leave a job with good pay, to take on a job with no pay?" Nageak recalls Upicksoun asking.
Upicksoun entered the battle, armed with energy, enthusiasm, and confidence the Inupiat would win.
"At ASNA, our mission, and our instructions, came from our people," Upicksoun recalls. "One: we were to protect our land. Two: we were to bring in quality education. Three: we sought a basic improvement in housing. Four: we needed an improved health care delivery system for the people of all our villages."
Upicksoun was elected as first vice president under the strong leadership of the late Walton Ahmaogak. In 1969, Upicksoun became president.
"The people that I was involved with in ASNA then were men like John Oktollik, Eddie Hopson, Sr., Wyman Panigeo, Lester Suvlu, Nelson Ahvakana and the local chairman from each of our four outlying villages," Upicksoun recalls. In addition to Barrow, the other member villages were Point Hope, Wainwright, Anaktuvuk Pass, and Kaktovik. The impacts of alcohol and other social problems brought into Point Lay by the Dewline station, coupled with a lack of jobs, had driven most of the residents of Upicksoun's home village away. The people of the Nuiqsut and Atqasuk areas had also sought greater opportunity elsewhere.
ASNA had put its full effort into securing the Inupiat claim of 58 million acres. No one had yet thought about combating the State takeover of their land by organizing a borough under State law. Yet, adaptability had always been key to survival in the Arctic, and would be now.
During repeated lobbying trips to Washington, the leaders of ASNA began to understand politics, and the workings of gov- ernment. "As we lobbied for the Alaska Native Claims under ASNA leadership, we developed some thorough intelligence in Washington, D.C.," Upicksoun explains. "We knew what the bottom line was."
It was not good. Congress leaned toward a settlement which would drop some token cash on the Native communities, but which would leave them with only a sliver of their ancient lands. With Edwardsen once again taking a lead role, the villages of the North Slope overwhelmingly voted to organize a tribal government under the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934. The Inupiat Community of the Arctic Slope was envisioned to be the entity that would take control of settlement lands and the monies that came with them. ICAS would serve as the tribal government, with powers recognized under federal law.
"This would the first regional IRA in the history of the U.S.", Upicksoun states. "As it turned out, Congress, in its infinite wisdom, came up with the regional corporation concept, regional corporations which would be incorporated under state law?"
Again, through their sources in Washington, not the least of whom were Senators Henry Jackson and Warren Magnusun from Washington, the ASNA leadership learned of this in advance. By now, ASNA had separated itself from the AFN. The majority of AFN had agreed among themselves that the lands and money from a land claims settlement would be divided up among the different regions on a per-capita basis - the regions with the most people would get the most land, and the most money.
This angered ASNA. The Arctic Slope had one of the smaller populations, but had a land base second in size only to Doyon. Under this plan, the Inupiat would be losing the most land of all Natives, and be paid the least in compensation. Inupiat lands contained the richest oil fields in North America, and some of the wealthiest coal and mineral deposits in the world. ASNA believed the Inupiat should be compensated according to their loss, not their population.
Finally, AFN capitulated, agreeing to what would become known as the "land-loss formula." ASNA's aboriginal land base was recognized as 56.5 million acres. "This was about 16 percent of the total for all Alaska;' Upicksoun explains. "Therefore, we would take 16 percent" of the settlement lands and money. AFN's target at this time was 60 million acres, plus initial compensation of $500 million for lands lost, with a perpetual two-percent share of all income generated on all public lands in Alaska.
Again, ASNA's intelligence in Washington told them what the real bottom line was. "The settlement was going to be 40 million acres, for all the Native people of Alaska," Upicksoun recalls. "At 16 percent, our share would be about 5 million acres. This meant we would lose control of 51.5 million acres." - 51.5 million acres vital to the Traditional Inupiat lifestyle. The State and Federal governments would now decide what would happen on these lands The Inupiat would have no say. Included in that 51.5 million acres were the 10 billion barrels of oil at Prudhoe Bay. The oil would now be drained from the lnupiat homeland, and would generate many billions of dollars of wealth, all of which would pour southward.
Little benefit would be left behind for the true people of the North. Countless thousands of jobs would be created for residents of Fairbanks, Anchorage, Juneau, Seattle. and points south. Poverty and unemployment would remain for the original owners of the oil. North Slope oil would bring much cheaper gasoline prices to those living down below but the people of the Arctic would still pay outrageous amounts for gas. Heating oil would be all but impossible to buy.
"The problem we were faced with," Upicksoun recalls. "was, how do we go about maintaining control of the 51.5 million acres we would be losing under the settlement act?"
It was time to fight State law with State law. "Under the State Constitution," Upicksoun explains. "there were provisions for area wide powers which would very much allow us to have control over all our homeland. We could do this through the use of two powers of local government - taxation and zoning. We could tax the oil industry at Prudhoe Bay to provide a base for a borough government. This would provide the revenue we needed to accomplish the four goals we had set at ASNA. Zoning: we would have the power to zone the industry - not to zone the industry out; the industry is our tax base - but to zone for subsistence, to protect those places our people depend upon for their food and living."
At this time, Eben Hopson was serving as a special assistant to Alaska Governor Egan. Coupled with his experience as a State Senator, he was becoming educated as to the workings of State and municipal governments. When the time came that the Inupiat people would decide he should come home and lead them, he would be ready.
First, there was much to be done, on a grass roots level by the people from the North Slope villages. The leadership of ASNA consulted with their attorney, Fred Paul, who had taken over for his father, William. In response, Paul wrote a letter dated March 6, 1969, which contained the following advise:
"As I have explained to you, the Federal Field Committee recommends giving us cash and relatively little land. Therefore, we must figure out some way of protecting your subsistence living on the land. The Federal Field Committee envisions two systems; the first is that the Alaska Native Development Corporation will have sufficient cash and political strength that it can through the legislature give you some assistance, remembering that conceivably the Alaska Native development Corporation can have cash in hand within ten years of more than one billion dollars. But I do not believe we should put all our eggs in one basket.
"The second system that is available to us is the creation of a borough. In an informal talk with Mr. Fitzgerald, Chairman of the Federal Field Committee, he thought the natural alignment of such a borough would be: Barrow, Kobuk and Nome election districts.
"Please be advised that I would like to proceed immediately with the creation of a borough up there and would like to have some direction from you as to what areas we should invite in with us. Kindly advise me.
"The value of the borough is that it can control zoning. Thus the borough could pass a resolution forbidding commercial development in certain areas, the areas you need for your subsistence living. Such a resolution would, have the force of law, and no development could be effected therein."
"When it was very evident that 40 million acres was the bottom line," Upicksoun recalls the event that kicked the movement for the North Slope Borough into motion, "This one guy, Charlie Edwardsen, Jr., came to me right on the street in Juneau. He said, "Joe we've got to get a petition going." He said that we should get Bob Dupere, who had helped organize the MatSu Borough organized, working for us. That's how fast Charlie Edwardsen can take action."
With the help of Dupere, a petition to form a first class borough on the North Slope, was soon drafted.
The Presbyterian Church
ASNA had been born with great ideas and high ambitions, but with no money. "Charlie never worried about money," Fred Paul remembers. "I knew what ASNA was going to do would cost an enormous amount of money." There would be trips to Washington, D.C., to Juneau, to Anchorage, and who knew where else. Somewhere, ASNA needed to find stone money, and fast.
As was Reverend Simmonds, most of the members of ASNA were numbered among the congregation of the Presbyterian Church. Fred Paul was also a Presbyterian, very active, with a long Presbyterian family history. His grandfather had died in the service of the Church. Although still classified as "a young Turk," James Nageak, the secretary of the new organization, had served in the ministry in the villages of Kaktovik and Anaktuvuk Pass.
"We were wheeling and dealing with the Presbyterian Church," Nageak recalls. While attending meetings of the General Assembly in Denver, Nageak got to know a number of Native Americans from the Lower 48. The General Assembly was searching for an Alaska Native to join its Church and Society Committee. Nageak suggested Martha Aiken of Barrow, and she was selected.
"Then we learned the General Assembly had money for Native people, to help in their fight for self-determination," Nageak explains.
Fred Paul also knew of the fund. He also knew that even if he could help ASNA secure a grant from this "self development fund," the terms of the grant would prevent the organization from using any of it to pay him. Still, it would be of great benefit to ASNA's lobbying efforts, and would also help cover other expenses, such as postage and telephone.
Backed by Aiken, Eddie Hopson, Nageak and the other Presbyterians of ASNA, Paul presented the request to the Synod of the Church. By a vote of 15-14, the Presbyterians agreed to give the new Native organization $85,000 to aid in their land claim efforts.
From his office in Juneau, Eben Hopson also became involved in the effort. In a letter to the local ASNA Chairmen of Pt. Hope, Wainwright, Barter Island, Anaktuvuk Pass, and Barrow, dated January 16, 1970, Hopson made the following Points:
"First, in our discussion of this proposal with Mr. Beard, the Director of the Local Affairs Agency, in the Governor's office, these things were brought out:
"(a.) That the borough would be responsible for, upon its takeover, the operation and maintenance of all our schools;
"(b.) That because there are no First Class Cities with the area proposed to be incorporated, there would be no weighted voting:
"(c.) That based on the total population of the area, we would have one assemblyman from each village, and an elected chairman at large, if this were the wish of the people;
"(d.) That we would also, upon incorporation, assume a taxing power to raise revenue so that the borough could operate under it's government;
"(e.)... Our tax base, which would include, among other things, all oil field equipment, drill rigs not actually connected to a well, and all properties taxable under law, not otherwise prohibited by restricted title.
"(f.) ...we would have to assume the responsibility of appointing all our school boards, clerks, tax assessors, all school teachers, and other personnel to support the operation of a school. School books and other equipment will have to be bought.
"(g.) In addition to those powers required under the Second Class borough, we would ask for the area wide powers for health, which would give us the authority to contract for medical people where we do not have them now... Doctors and Nurses.
"lb.)... We say that Barrow, Wainwright, Pt. Hope, Kaktovik and Anaktuvuk Pass, wish to incorporate using the same boundaries as our land claim. We propose that the seat of government should be at Barrow, Alaska; that we would have five assemblymen, one from each village, and an elected chairman, if this were the wish of the people, and that we wish to exercise the additional powers for health in addition to those powers granted a Second Class Borough ....
"The desire for self determination on the part of the people who wish to exercise that right should not be denied by those that govern. I think every opportunity should be afforded the people who wish to initiate and suffer the hardships of self determination through a more expanded local government.
"It is also my belief that the fact that we have started this petition for incorporation on our own and explaining the involvement of the people in local government is a very healthy thing..
"It is true that we will need some people who are well qualified to handle some areas of our responsibilities. It is possibly true that perhaps we do not have the people within our own area who are tax experts and experts in other fields. However, we should not feel that we are not ready to assume full responsibility for expanded local self government, because we can hire expertise where we need them. I am not saying that we do not have them. We have many good business people within our area and other civic minded individuals who are just waiting for opportunities like this to tackle.
"Enclosed please find a resolution proposing to incorporate a Second Class Borough. This is a sample petition and may be used to discuss this subject. Additional time will be spent by me personally with each of you before July of this year, at which time we hope to submit the official petition for the purpose of obtaining signatures for the proposed Borough."
Eben Hopson, Executive Director
Arctic Slope Native Association
Upicksoun joined Eddie Hopson and other leaders of ASNA on airplane trips to all the villages. "We explained thc concept of the Borough to our people, and what it could do for our whole region," Upicksoun recalls. "The reaction was very positive. All the villages wanted to get on the band wagon, to support the borough concept."
Soon, they had gathered what they believed were the required number of signatures to require the State to take action on their petition. The petition, signed by Joseph Upicksoun, President, ASNA, was sent to the Chair of the Local Affairs Agency, Byron Mallot. Provisions included:
On July 16, 1971, Mallot gave ASNA the following response: " In accordance with the requirement of the Alaska Statutes, under which the petition has been filed, the agency has initiated an investigation of the petition. The results of this investigation will be reported to the State Local Boundary Commission, at which time the petition will be scheduled for public hearing within the boundaries of the proposed organized borough "
Mallot eventually informed ASNA the petition was short of signatures, and therefore invalid.
A confrontation followed, with a face off between Edwardsen and Mallot. Mallot advanced the petition that the percentage of signatures needed was based on the number of all the eligible voters on the North Slope. The signatures on the petition fell short of this number. Edwardsen advanced the ASNA position that legally, the required percentage needed to come from only those voters who had voted in the last election. That percentage was met.
Depending on who one talks to, this was merely a heated exchange or an event which left Mallot lying flat on his back on a Washington, D.C. sidewalk.
To bolster ASNA's position, the city governments of each village within ASNA submitted statements in support of the petition. The following resolution from the village of Kaktovik is typical:
"For more than two years now, the Arctic Slope Native Association has been sponsoring a borough for the whole North Slope
"We understand that we will have burdens, like schools, but we also understand we will have a right of taxation and of zoning.
"We favor the creation of a first-class borough of the whole slope."
Dated this 22 day of August, 1971.
Village of Barter Island (Kaktovik)
By: Gregg A. Tagarook, Mayor
By: Alice A. Killbear, Clerk
The oil industry did not share Inupiat enthusiasm for the concept of the North Slope Borough. "The oil companies just could not see 4,000 Inupiat getting all the benefits of having such a huge tax base," Upicksoun recalls the battle which followed.
The first blow to strike down the borough was thrown by the Alaska Oil and Gas Association. In a memo to John Havelock, Attorney General of the State of Alaska, lawyers for AOGA set the groundwork for what would be an unrelenting struggle to quash the Inupiat drive for self-determination.
In introducing the memo, AOGA manager William Hopkins stated:
"The companies concerned and this Association feel that this proposal has great importance, and that the decision which will be made as a result of the petition being filed will influence the lives of the people who live there, the industries that operate there and indeed, the entire Alaska community."
AOGA lawyer H. Russel Holland argued that ASNA's position had been filed on an invalid form. He claimed that when Alaska had become a state, the constitution required it to be divided into Boroughs. Some of these boroughs were organized. For example, the Fairbanks North Star Borough was an "organized borough." There were similar organized boroughs in Anchorage, Juneau, and the Mat-Su valley.
Virtually all of Rural Alaska, including the North Slope, was included in what was known as the "unorganized borough". Holland claimed the Inupiat were "not sufficiently developed to undertake local government on their own." He contended a new borough could not be established without changing the boundaries of the unorganized borough, and that the state had set no guidelines for changing the unorganized borough.
It would take an act of the Alaska State Legislature to change the boundaries, and to create a new government entity such as the North Slope Borough. Holland insisted, arguing that ASNA's petition was worthless. Holland did not say that many in the Alaska State Legislature and the administration of Governor Egan did not want to see the North Slope Borough created. They feared the Borough would claim revenues that would otherwise go to the State. Industry lobbyists had great influence inside the Alaska Legislature. If a bill to establish the North Slope Borough ever came before the legislature, the industry was confident their lobbyists could guarantee its defeat.
Holland claimed that there were other, more critical problems with the ASNA petition.
"The really serious question presented by this petition," Holland wrote, "does the area proposed for incorporation conform to such standards as are available? No area may be incorporated as an organized borough unless it conforms to (four sets of) standards. "It is required that the population of a proposed area be "interrelated and integrated as to its social, cultural, and economic activities," Holland cited the first standard. Anyone familiar with the people of the North Slope, their relations, customs, and hunting habits could only conclude that they were one of the most "interrelated and integrated" groups of people in the Nation, especially when compared to the populations of boroughs such as those in Anchorage and Fairbanks. Holland did not see it this way.
"It is difficult for us to conclude that the area proposed by the Arctic Slope Native Association for incorporation is interrelated and integrated as to its social, cultural, and economic activities," Holland challenged. "The use of the word "interrelated' denotes a situation of broad, multi-level dealings between people. The use of the word 'integrated' suggests that the area is to form a cohesive whole, that it has become united; and by reference to social, cultural, and economic units within the proposed incorporation area; but it is difficult for us to perceive any overall integration or interrelation on a [proposed] boroughwide basis."
Holland was arguing that Kaktovik, Barrow, Wainwright, Anaktuvuk Pass and Point Hope were not interrelated socially, culturally, or economically. He even claimed the North Slope communities had "far more substantial social, cultural, and economic relations with the urban centers to the south - Kotzebue, Nome, and Fairbanks - then they do as between themselves."
Only a lawyer could seriously advance such illogical legal logic.
"It is perhaps instructive to observe at this point that although the oil industry employs few people who will qualify as residents so as to be entitled to vote in any election on the North Slope, the industry facilities and personnel on the North Slope and within the proposed borough are, in our opinion, clearly a part of the North slope society, culture, and economy which the Local Affairs Agency must consider," Holland continued.
"The activity generated by the discovery of oil on the North Slope in our view has little or no interrelation or integration with the proposed area of incorporation as a whole, but in particular it has little or no social or economic connection with the proposed borough seat, Barrow, which is 200 miles away from the center of the major development at Prudhoe Bay."
Thus, Holland argued that the proposed borough did not meet this first standard, and the petition should be rejected. He then took on the second standard:
"The population shall be qualified and willing to assume the duties arising out of incorporation, shall have a clear understanding of the nature of the undertaking and shall be large enough and stable enough to warrant and support the evaluation of organized borough government."
Holland readily agreed that with a tax base as huge as industry operations at Prudhoe Bay and along the pipeline would surely become, there was no question that the North Slope Borough would have the financial resources it needed. Beyond this, he questioned the ability of the Inupiat residents to live up to this requirement.
"Dealing with the standards of qualification, willingness, and stability is more difficult... Beyond these communities, it is difficult to perceive how the population of the proposed borough could be deemed 'stable.' It is a fact that there simply is no population, permanent or otherwise, in vast portions of the area proposed for incorporation," Holland contended.
"Concerning the standard of a "willing" population... we do wonder... if the residents of Wainwright, Point Hope. Anaktuvuk Pass and Kaktovik realize the implications to their municipal governments of borough incorporation... it would be interesting to know whether the fourth-class cities within the proposed borough are aware of the fact that they will, for example, lose their power to levy and collect taxes."
"We feel that the Local Boundary commission would have to reject the petition to the extent that it seeks to provide the proposed borough with unauthorized powers within cities," Holland added.
As to "the matter of a population which is 'qualified' to assume the duties arising out of incorporation," Holland argued, "the borough will have to deal with taxation, education, and planning and zoning on an area wide basis... the North Slope Borough will have assumed the obligations for the street construction and maintenance, fire and police protection, and health and relief. With all due respect to those who have worked hard in developing a proposal for incorporation... the subject petition attempts to take on too much for a very sparsely populated area."
This, Holland said, was one more reason why the ASNA petition should not be accepted - the people of the North Slope were not qualified to manage the borough.
The next set of standards Holland dealt with call for organized boroughs to have boundaries "which conform generally to the natural geography of the area proposed for incorporation. "The proposed boundaries appear meaningful geographically," Holland conceded. "However... boroughs ought to be people oriented rather than being created by reference to arbitrary geographic lines." Holland then took on the next portion of this standard. It called for organized boroughs to encompass "all areas necessary and proper for the full development of integrated local government services, but shall exclude all areas such as military reservations, glaciers, icecaps and uninhabited and unused lands unless such areas are necessary or desirable for integrated local government"
On this point, Holland maintained that the North Slope Borough would fail miserably. "The proposed borough obviously includes completely unpopulated mountain ranges," he argued. "Completely unpopulated mile upon square mile of uninhabited tundra; and the 8,900,000 acre Arctic Wildlife Preserve which is, so far as we know, totally unpopulated, and the 23,000 acre Naval Petroleum Reserve No. 4.... the entire proposed borough area is uninhabited with the exception of several small communities and the Prudhoe Bay Center of the oil activity.
"We cannot conceive of how any of the vast lands between the few pockets of population are necessary for an integrated government except for the basic fact that a tax base valuable enough to support the whole borough exists in the island of oil activity at Prudhoe Bay... The lands proposed for incorporation are so vast in comparison to the portions which are in any sense developed or populated as to boggle the mind."
Holland then brought up the economy standard. Under this, the boundaries of an organized borough were expected to enclose a 'trading area'. "In our opinion," Holland argued. "The proposed area fails completely to encompass a 'trading area.'" He argued that the North Slope villages traded with Kotzebue, Fairbanks, and Anchorage, but not with each other. This was one more reason, Holland insisted, for the petition to be rejected.
The last set of standards Holland brought up involved transportation. Boroughs were required to have "transportation facilities of a 'unified nature as to facilitate the commu- nication and exchange necessary for the development of integrated local government and a community of interest." Preferably, this meant roads, Holland argued. Areas accessible only by water or air could be included in a borough only if "Access to them is reasonably inexpensive, readily available, and reasonably safe." Holland contended that "the proposed borough thoroughly fails to meet the condition of having unified transportation facilities... the North Slope has no road system which connects the centers of population.... only by air, and only between Barrow and Prudhoe Bay is there any sort of regular air communication. All other travel is by bush plane which is hardly, we think, to be termed an 'inexpensive' means of transportation. The ready availability of such is doubtful; and, without meaning to impune the reliability of North Slope bush pilots, we wonder if this means of travel can truthfully be referred to as 'reasonably safe' given the high latitudes and poor weather conditions which prevail during much of the year."
After presenting these arguments, Holland stated "we believe that the Local Affairs Agency investigation should conclude that the proposed incorporation of the North slope Borough does not meet the standards prescribed by the legislature." He argued that it would even be illegal for the Local Boundary Commission to hold hearings on the North Slope Borough petition.
Yet, ASNA's petition was accepted by the Local Affairs Agency. Mallot concluded that the petition not only had the required number of signatures, but met all legal standards. A public hearing was set for December 2,1971, in Barrow. Here, both the villagers in favor of the borough, and the industry representatives opposed to it, would have another chance to argue for their positions.
The Local Boundary Commission Hearings
Well before the hearings of December 2, the leadership of ASNA and their attorney, Fred Paul, had familiarized themselves with the arguments the oil industry was using to oppose the Borough. "We knew they were going to argue that a borough would be against the interests of the villages, and that if the villages understood what a borough was, they wouldn't want to be part of it," Fred Paul recalls, "We knew that John Hedland, the chairman of the Local Boundary Commission, was hostile towards us. I told Joe, the president of ASNA, to bring in city councils from all the villages." From the time of Holland's memo, the industry representatives had sought to speak for the villages. If the villages knew what they would have to give up, the industry maintained, they would not want to be part of the North Slope
"It was time," Upicksoun recounts, "to let the villages speak for themselves. Of course they understood what the Borough would mean to them!"
Two events of the past couple of years had especially convinced the residents of the North Slope that they needed some kind of government which could exercise the powers they sought. In addition to the Prudhoe sale which, in one day, had brought in $900 million dollars, two additional sales had earned revenues of $100 and $300 million respectively. A total of $1.3 billion dollars had been earned on the lands of the Inupiat homeland. All the revenues had went south.
Even more tragic, an airplane transporting Native students to the boarding school at Mt. Edgecumbe crashed near Juneau. Five Barrow youth were among the dead.
It was time to build high schools on the North Slope. It was time to establish the North Slope Borough. It was time to come to the hearings in Barrow, and speak up for your rights.
By the 7:30 PM meeting time, a large excited crowd had gathered. All the villages were represented, with the exception of Anaktuvuk Pass. The chartered airplane had twice tried to get into the village, and twice, bad weather had prevented it from doing so.
The interests of the oil companies would be represented by Harlan Flint. an attorney for Mobile Oil. In addition to Hedland, the commissioners included A1 Schontz, Gary Ackerman, Christopher Bernsdorf, Bob Dorn and Byron Mallot. While Hedland might have exhibited some initial hostility towards the creation of the borough, the Inupiat knew they had at least one friend on the board. Schontz was a Barrow businessman, married into the Inupiat community. He had been personally recruited into the LBC by Eben Hopson, Governor Egan's special assistant.
After the formalities, LBC chairman John Hedland called on Fred Paul to present the case for the ASNA petition. Paul called Joseph Upicksoun as his first witness. Upicksoun identified himself as the President of the Arctic Slope Native Association, and the Acting President of the newly formed Innova Corporation. "The reason we have the Innova Corporation," Upicksoun explained, "is because there is innovation in developing our own communities up here in the Arctic.
"The Innova Corporation would be similar to a think tank, like the Brookings Institution that the legislative Affairs hired in 1969 for a study on the future of Alaska."
In response to questions asked by Paul, Upicksoun expressed the desires for self-determination felt by the Inupiat people. He spoke of BIA schools going no further than elementary levels. He spoke of the work of the Federal Field Committee, whose recommendations had helped establish the boundaries of what would become the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation.
"The Arctic Slope Region as referred to in the Federal Field Committee report indicates that there is 56.5 million acres of land in the Arctic Slope region..." Upicksoun testified. "The Federal Field Committee used the Brooks Range going from Point Hope village and using the water shed from the Brooks Range all the way up to the Canadian Border and the Arctic Ocean as the other bound."
This, of course, was the same area the ASNA had designated for the borough. Contrary to oil company arguments, the Federal Field Committee had recognized the region as one interrelated, integrated, community, socially, culturally, and economically. Eben Hopson had not been able to leave Juneau and come to Barrow for the hearings. Eben sent a statement, which, as Paul's second witness, Eben's older brother, Eddie, read into the record.
"I actually took part in the passage of legislation to create organized boroughs," the future mayor had written. "Therefore, I speak with some authority and knowledge in this constitutionally." Addressing the standard of whether or not the communities of the proposed borough were "inter-related and integrated" socially, culturally, and economically, Hopson responded forcefully. "Gentlemen, this proposed North slope borough would, in fact, be the first in our area to be incorporated that fully complies with this particular standard. Culturally, socially or otherwise, this area is integrated and inter-related in all respects...
"Let me say that the proposed boundaries of the borough conform with the requirement and let me support it by saying that the Arctic Slope Native Association has the same boundaries and the I.R.A. corporation has the same boundaries as (stated in) my previous testimony before the Apportionment Board for the creation of an elective district using the same boundaries.
"May I also add that the natural boundaries of the whole area has been the Brooks Range from the Canadian Border east to Cape Lisbourne on the west. There are no arbitrary lines drawn. And this again is one area where you are actually complying with a requirement in the Constitution of the State of Alaska...
"On the point of encompassing a trading area, even before I started the effort to organize this Borough, I testified before the Congressional Committee: ' The whole North Slope area used to be a trading area from the Demarcation Point to Point Hope, and from the Brooks Range to the Arctic Ocean.'"
"Only through the expansion of travel by air transportation has the trading area gone beyond the North Slope Area...
"Let me also say that no substantially limited area of incorporation will be in the best interest of the whole North Slope area. If we had the idea of a small and troublesome bor- ough like most boroughs are, we would not have to include the whole North Slope. Let me also remind the Commission that this Administration is very sensitive to the problems of the Bush and has been very responsible in this respect.
Eben Hopson concluded his written testimony with this plea: "May I suggest and urge the Commission to accept the said petition and permit the people involved to decide the final question..."
George Agnassaga, the Mayor of Wainwright, followed Hopson. His village, Agnassaga confirmed, was strongly in favor of the North Slope Borough. "The most important reason is the education. We have the BIA school up to the eighth grade, but we also have students who go down to Wrangell on completion of the seventh grade... We have approximately 100 (grade school students) at Wainwright, and approximately 50 (high school students) who leave Wainwright for their education.
A little before 9:00 PM, Chairman Hedland called a short break. During the break, Paul spoke with the industry's lawyer, Harlan Flint. "It's getting late," Paul noted, "and we're all getting a little tired. Perhaps you'd like to go next."
Flint readily agreed.
Paul, however, was not merely being polite. During the earlier proceedings, he had noticed a couple of newspaper reporters in the audience, including Margie Bauman of the Anchorage Daily News. As a whole, the daily press in Alaska had taken a hostile stance toward the idea of the North Slope Borough. Along with Howard Rock's Tundra Times, Margie Bauman's reports in the Daily News had provided the only fair coverage to the Inupiat.
Just before his offer to Flint, Paul had chatted with Bauman.
"When is your deadline?" he had asked.
"10:00 PM;' she answered.
Flint took the stand, and put forth the industry's position that, due to the supposed change in the boundary of the unorganized borough, this LBC hearing itself was illegal. Under questioning by Paul, Flint touched again on the oil companies objections to the borough. What became especially clear was the fact that the oil companies, who were about to map the benefits of the richest mineral find ever in the United States, did not want to pay taxes to the traditional owners of those riches.
Flint's testimony ended just before 10:00 PM - just in time to make the next edition of the Anchorage Daily News. The story spoke of the Inupiat desire for self-determination, and, through Harlan Flint's words, the efforts of the industry to thwart those desires.
John Oktollik spoke for the people of Point Hope, and Herman Rexford for Kaktovik. Both strongly emphasized the support of their villages for the Borough. Jack Chenowith, the mayor of Barrow, told of the hardships of trying to fight fires, and meet the needs of housing, water, and sewage in a community as short of cash as Barrow was.
Some of the most moving testimony of the hearing came from Barrow Elder Alfred Hopson.
"Now I understand that I am supposed to make an effort to make you people understand how we built the Arctic Slope," Hopson testified. "We have people on the coast, living on the ocean and using both the land and the sea. We have people on the mountainside, living off the fish, moose, caribou, wolves, foxes - everything that was to be taken.
"And we could not survive without having some communication with each other. So there were bands of people who traveled from one village to another, which was recreational in a way, but it was the main trade, and they traded their goods for what they needed. They came off the slope and bought what they needed from the people who lived on the mountainside.
"One reason the Eskimo is so proud of himself is that he knows, as long as he is alive, that he can go anywhere and survive, regardless of the weather and the storms. Anyone can go out from here that knows how to survive, in terms of equipment as long as he has a shovel and a knife, you can get what's there and provide shelter that is much warmer than a double 8 ounce duck material.
"So that's why these men have so much pride in themselves, because they have survived, all through the years." Hopson made it clear that all the empty, uninhabited lands the industry had pointed to were used by the Inupiat. He spoke of the travels of hunters, and of reindeer herders. Hopson made it clear that the entire 56.5 million acres were of great importance to his people. It was their home.
"That struggle for survival is based on the fact that this old Arctic Slope keeps the Eskimo alive," Hopson continued. "It has been our security for ages. Any time that we wanted an 'apple,' we went out and got it. We got what we wanted to live on, got what we needed. So this is the reason that we want this security for our coming generations. We can not help but know that it is being exploited and will be exploited to the point where we will not have freedom to make our own living. All we ask is... we don't want to be left out in the cold. as long as there's oil coming out of the ground."
Hopson also made it clear that his people understood that, for the security of the U.S., them was a need to exploit the oil of Prudhoe Bay. Still, Prudhoe Bay was in the homeland of the Inupiat, Hopson pointed out. The Inupiat should receive their share of the benefits of that exploitation. Without a borough, their chances of doing so were slim.
The hearings would continue until 2:00 A.M.. Among the other witness was the BIA Superintendent for the Fairbanks agency. Although the advent of the borough would mean displacement of some of his people, particularly in education, Craig strongly backed the petition.
"I have found, in the north particularly, that there is a quality of leadership, a quality of integrity, a quality of dedication, a quality of listening and working together to achieve a given goal that I have not truly seen evidenced in any other particular area," Craig testified.
The hearing ended with extensive expert testimony from Bob Dupere, the consultant who Charlie Edwardsen had recruited to draft the petition.
Despite the bad weather, the people of Anaktuvuk Pass would yet have their say. Shortly after the hearings, Upicksoun and Eddie Hopson traveled to the village to record statements of the Nunamiut for the record.
Bob Ahgook delivered some moving testimony which, according to Paul, would prove vital in convincing the LBC commissioners that the Inupiat deserved the self-determination a borough would provide.
"I have one child going out next year," he spoke of his daughter, Dorothy. "She is quite young. What I mean is, to go out quite young, the change of a big city, like going in the dark but they don't know which way to go or they don't know what to do with themselves when they go in a big city so young. I would feel that going to high school for four years, starting out pretty young, like fourteen years old... you don't know what to do. A lot of our people here in the village pretty much in favor of getting a small school for 9th and 10th grades. Then give a chance for a child to be a little older and learn a little bit more what's life.
"I am not against the high school any where in Alaska. I just like to see some schools established in small villages."
Although the English of a man born and raised speaking
Inupiaq may not have been perfect, Ahgook expressed his feelings well.
The commissioners could not help but be touched by his words.
The February Meeting
On February 8, 1972, the LBC announced a meeting in Anchorage, set for the February 23 - 25: This would be the time of decision; would there, or would them not, be a North Slope Borough? It would be up to the commissioners to decide.
Another purpose of the meeting would be to discuss three bills recently introduced into the Alaska State House. The bills would deal with the formation of organized boroughs from within the unorganized borough, and with the collection and distribution of property tax, particularly in relation to the oil industry.
In preparation for the meeting, Richard Garnett, the assistant attorney general for the State of Alaska, prepared an opinion which did not look good for the borough. Garnett brought up the concerns of the oil companies as to whether or not the North Slope Borough would meet the required standards.
Referring to earlier visits made to the North Slope villages by members of the Local Affairs agency. Garnett stated that the people of the villages showed little understanding of what a borough was. Speaking of Kaktovik and Anaktuvuk Pass, Garnett said "residents of the village exhibited little knowledge about the Arctic Slope Native Association petition for the North Slope Borough... it might be noted that clear statements of opposition cannot really be expected because of the general lack of knowl- edge of the borough concept of government."
In other words, Garnett was implying, on behalf of the State of Alaska, that although the residents of these villages had enthusiastically supported the Borough in the hearings, they really did not know anything about what they were supporting, and, if they had have, they would likely have opposed it.
Garnett went on to note that if the LBC approved the Borough, the matter would certainly be taken to courts by the oil industry. The courts, Garnett said, "might find that the statute contemplates a higher level of understanding by the populace prior to formation than has been exhibited to the commission."
"He was saying Eskimos didn't know the time of day," Fred Paul translates Garnett's words into simpler language. "He was saying Eskimos were not qualified to manage a borough, Eskimos were unfamiliar with Borough government. That bothered me a great deal."
Garnett supported the industry arguments on other matters, as well. "A Borough is not to include uninhabited and unused lands... In our view, a court would find that the area does include uninhabited and unused lands... The issue is whether such lands are necessary or desirable for integrated local government. With respect particular to the western part of the borough, a court could conclude, on the basis of the record, that the degree of integration which could be achieved between Barrow and the combined total of 222 inhabitants of Kaktovik and Anaktuvuk Pass does not warrant inclusion of those villages."
Garnett also questioned whether the few scheduled mail flights between the North Slope villages and the availability of chartered flights amounted "to readily available, reasonably inexpensive travel."
Despite this discouraging legal opinion from the State, the backers of the Borough greeted the decisional meeting with optimism. "I had confidence we would prevail," Upicksoun recalls. "We had the best attorneys, although we had no money to pay them. Our cause was just."
During the course of the meetings, Paul introduced attorneys Peter Ashenbrenner and David Getches of the Native American Rights Fund, out of Denver, Colorado. NARF was well known in the Native American community for its knowledge of Indian law, and its dedication to Native issues. Paul had invited them to help with the case.
Russel Holland was on hand to represent the oil industry, along with attorney W.R. Harrison of Mobil Oil. Harlan Flint would also join in the debate. Among the handful of other meeting participants officially noted on the record was Charlie Edwardsen, Jr. Holland quickly set out to challenge the legality of any evidence that might be heard at the meeting. The record, Holland said, was officially closed. Any further testimony regarding the North Slope Borough would be illegal. Hedland responded that if further testimony was needed, further testimony would be taken. It would be part of the record.
Harrison joined Holland in stating that the oil companies opposed any new evidence as illegal.
Fred Paul had his own answer. "We do have, Mr. Chairman, a desire to file a proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law at this time. By way of explanation, this is not evidence, this is comments."
"Well put," LBC Chairman Hedland answered.
Debate over the next three days was fast and furious. Rather than depicting their opposition to the borough as an attempt to limit the self-determination of the North Slope Inupiat, the industry lawyers sought to portray themselves as champions of the smaller North Slope villages, and of all the Native villages south of the North Slope. Because of Barrow's larger population, the lawyers insisted, all five at large North Slope Borough assembly members would certainly come from Barrow. The people in the other four villages would have no representation on the assembly, they insisted.
Furthermore, they argued that any taxes levied on the industry should be for the benefit of all the villages in the Unorganized Borough. These taxes should be levied by the Alaska State legislature. The legislature would then act as the local government for all the rural Native villages, the industry attorneys argued. This way. the benefits would be spread throughout the state. including to Barrow, and all the Arctic villages.
Fred Paul had heard similar arguments from the timber industry in Southeast Alaska. In fact, once the industry got its way, the people of the villages had seen few of the benefits. Through the Alaska Federation of Natives and its president, Don Wright, the other villages of the unorganized borough expressed their support for the North Slope Borough.
Who could represent the people of the Arctic better? A local government seated in Barrow? Or, as the industry representatives were suggesting, a legislature based in Juneau - a legislature which at the time had not one person from the Arctic Slope serving in it? What was more accessible to a resident of Wainwright, the legislature in Juneau, or a borough government in Barrow?
These and many other points were debated: mil rates, sales tax, per capita income, per capita tax values - even whether or not Kaktovik's location on an island meant it was in or outside Alaska.
Gradually, it became evident the commissioners were leaning ever more in favor of the borough. Chairman Hedland had one major concern. He feared the first class status listed on the petition would provide the North Slope Borough with too much power. Hedland wanted to change the classification to second class. On the third day, he asked Paul if ASNA had any objections, and what action they might take if the petition were reduced to second class.
Paul responded that he was only an attorney. Only the petitioners themselves could answer Hedland's question. One of the petitioners was present, Paul noted. Charlie Edwardsen, Jr. Perhaps he could answer the question.
Apparently, the legal secretary recording the proceedings became a little overwhelmed with the flow of thc action. Substantial portions of the testimony are missing, and many state- ments are given without the speaker being identified. The official record shows Edwardsen responding with a simple, flat, four word statement. "It would be challenged."
Paul remembers a much more dramatic reaction from Etok. "NO!" Edwardsen shouted out in his booming voice while slamming his list into the table. "NO! BY GOD. NO!"
Hedland dropped the idea.
Finally, a motion was made to accept the petition. Hedland was still concerned with granting the North Slope Borough "all the powers of a first class city" over the entire North Slope. To appease his concern, an amendment was introduced and accepted to limit the Borough's powers just to those the law said a first class city must have. These three "mandatory powers" include educational, taxing, and planning and zoning powers.
Even so, it would be a simple matter for the Borough government to give itself more powers at a later date. A second amendment made it clear to all that the northern boundary of the Borough extended three miles offshore to the water limits of the State of Alaska, and included Barter Island.
This done, each commissioner uttered the word "aye."
The petition to establish the North Slope Borough had been
Yet, the battle was not over.
The Court Battles
On March 7, 1972, the Local Boundary Commission sent formal notice to Lieutenant Governor Red Boucher that they had accepted the petition of incorporation for the North Slope Borough. On March 20, Boucher set June 20 as the date for the first Borough election. On this day, it would be up to the voters of the Arctic Slope to state finally whether the Borough would become reality, and, if it did, who its leaders would be.
Yet, the oil companies would not yield. They were big and powerful. They had a virtually unlimited supply of cash with which to fight their battles. It did not matter how high priced a lawyer was, they could pay the bill. ASNA was small. and broke. They had no money to pay their lawyers.
On August 28, a group of oil companies led by Mobil, Amerada Hess, Amoco, and BP filed a lawsuit in the Alaska Superior Court. The Local Boundary Commission, Lieutenant Governor Boucher, and the State of Alaska were named as defendants. Complaining that oil company "property will be subjected to taxation" and "their operations will be subjected to various forms of regulation by an illegally - constituted body (the North Slope Borough) the oil companies asked that the election be stayed, and the LBC determination in favor of the Borough be set aside.
With support from all the villages of the Arctic Slope, ASNA asked the Court to allow them to "intervene" in the case. Since whatever decision the court would reach would affect the people of the North Slope more than anyone else, ASNA wanted to be certain the judge heard their side of the story. This request was granted. In addition to ASNA and each of the villages, the court also recognized Joseph Upicksoun and Charles Edwardsen, Jr., as "appellee intervenors."
The case was brought before Superior Court Judge Eben H. Lewis on April 26, 1972.
After hearing the evidence, Judge Lewis ruled in favor of ASNA and against the oil companies. Still they fought on. Now the industry appealed the case to the Alaska Supreme Court.
Despite the court case hanging over them, North Slope voters poured into the polls on June 20. The vote in favor of the Borough was overwhelming. Eben Hopson was elected as mayor, with no opposition.
Supreme Court Associate Justice Roger G. Connor heard the case June 26. That same day, he ruled in favor of the people of the Arctic Slope.
The North Slope Borough was about to become reality.
Joe Upicksoun remembers April through June as some of the most busy and exciting times ever experienced on the North Slope. "We were implementing the Alaska Native Settlement Act, and going about setting up our regional corporation," he explains. "We were fighting the oil companies in court, and we were campaigning for and holding an election."
Finally, the right of the people of the North Slope to incorporate their borough had been upheld by the Alaska Supreme Court. The campaign for the Borough had been staged, the elections held and certified.
On July 3, 1972, a happy crowd gathered in the old Barrow Junior High School Building.
Eben Hopson had been elected Mayor of the new borough, and, as such, called the meeting to order at 8:25 P.M.
Also present were the five newly elected assembly members. They included Oliver Leavitt, Edward Hopson, Henry Kanayurak, Jacob Adams, and John Nusunginya.
According to the Borough Act, the first order of business was for the new Assembly to elect it's officers, starting with the president.
Edward Hopson nominated Oliver Leavitt. Nusunginya seconded the nomination. Leavitt was accepted by unanimous consent.
Henry Kanayurak moved that Edward Hopson be nominated Vice-President, Jacob Adams seconded, and, again, there was unanimous consent.
After discussions regarding the duties of deputy clerk, Henry Kanayurak was nominated and unanimously accepted as Temporary Deputy Clerk.
This was followed by a discussion of what "rules of procedure" the Assembly would follow. The Borough attorney suggested they follow Roberts Rules of Order. Oliver Leavitt inquired as to where the Assembly might get a book of Roberts Rules.
"In any book store," came the answer.
John Nusunginya moved that Roberts Rules be adopted, Edward Hopson seconded. The vote was unanimous.
Though high on hope, the new borough had little money. A $25,000 organizational grant was due from the state. The Assembly needed to decide what bank to put this money in when it arrived. Not wanting to offend the oil companies, who had not yet given up their fight against the Borough, most Alaska banks were reluctant to consider financing the North Slope Borough. A Fairbanks banker by the name of Frank Murkowski was present. Murkowski assured the Assembly that his Alaska National Bank would be willing to work with them on interim financing.
There was also a discussion on the Borough's fight to levy taxes, and another on housing and office space for the new Borough. Jack Chenoweth volunteered his home.
After the discussion, the Assembly voted to bank with the Alaska National Bank. They also voted that the Mayor and Deputy Clerk be bonded, to assure that the Borough's funds would not be misused.
After a four minute break - probably the shortest recess in the history of the Assembly, Mayor Hopson, the Clerk, and Edward Hopson were voted in as the authorized check signers for the Borough. The first Tuesday of each month was chosen as the time for the regular meeting of the Assembly, three members of which would constitute a quorum.
The next meeting was scheduled for July 11, and a tentative agenda set.
John Nusunginya moved that the meeting be adjourned. Oliver Leavitt seconded.
Once again, the vote was unanimous.
The time was 10:20 P.M.
Future meetings of the Assembly would grow more complex, and last far longer.
Eben Hopson Gets An Education
Early on a late summer day in the mid - 1930's, a determined teen-aged boy packed his duffel bag, stepped out of his house, and marched resolutely down to the Chukchi Sea. Of all the Barrow students ready to venture off to high school, young Eben Hopson was the first to arrive on the beach. He had completed his elementary education and was now ready to advance on to high school.
In those days, education in Barrow and across the North Slope was funded and controlled by the United States Bureau of Indian Affairs. Classes in Arctic schools went no further than the eighth grade. Any student desiring a high school education had to travel, by ship, to BIA boarding schools far from their home shores.
Unfortunately, only a few students ever got the opportunity to attend high school at all. Each year the North Star, a BIA ship, would travel all along the Alaskan coast and up and down the Yukon and Kuskokwim Rivers. The ship would drop anchor at Native villages along the way, bringing in doctors and nurses who would set up temporary medical clinics. When it came time for the North Star to leave a village, local high school students would be taken on board for the long and exciting trip to boarding schools at White Mountain or Eklutna. There was room for only a few students from each region to make the trip, and to board at the schools.
It was up to BIA educators to determine who, among all the Native youth of Rural Alaska, would have the opportunity to attend high school. Only the best, the brightest, and the most ambitious of all the village students would ever be selected.
As the story has been handed down, among the Barrow students of that year, there was none better, none brighter, and none more ambitious than the young Eben Hopson. He had studied hard, scored high grades, and had been active in student affairs. He had earned himself a berth on the North Star, and a desk in the BIA high school at Eklutna.
Yet, strangely, when the other students began to arrive at the beach, they dropped the excited chatter and laughter which had followed them there, and fell silent. Standing in awkward positions, Eben's fellow students and friends exchanged quick, nervous, glances among themselves.
During the previous school year, young Eben had been active in civic affairs. He had taken a strong stand on an issue important to him.
He had made some enemies in high places.
The principal at the BIA school had thought it would be nice to have wooden sidewalks built between the homes of himself and his staff to the school. To accomplish this, he put Eben and his classmates to work constructed the sidewalks. For their labor, the students were to be paid nothing.
Eben protested. There were many families in Barrow who had little money, the student activist argued. The heads of these families should be paid a fair wage to build these sidewalks. Using unpaid student labor was unfair. Eben Hopson's protestations were shunted aside.
The only thing to do, the youth decided, was to write a letter to the BIA school superintendent in Juneau. Here, Eben faced another problem. Outgoing letters were to be placed in a bag, which just happened to be under the care of the principal. Eben was quite convinced that if he dropped his letter in the mail bag, where it could sit for days before being picked up, the principal would read it. It would never get to Juneau. Eben would be in even more trouble.
He waited until the very last moment, when the mail carrier came to pick up the bag. Just as the carrier was about to pull the bag shut, Eben rushed in, and dropped his letter in. As the story goes, a dismayed principal witnessed this act, but, what could he do? He could not stop the mail, pull out the letter, and read it in front of everybody.
As a result of Eben's letter, the principal soon found himself with some explaining to do.
Still, he would have his revenge. It was he who would make the final decision as to what Barrow students would be allowed to go on to high school. Despite Eben Hopson's good academic record, and his strong desire to go to high school, Eben was struck from the list. "As far as I know," Eben's older brother, Eddie, recalls, "the principal thought he'd better keep Eben from getting more education. Eben was a good prospect to become a leader. With a little more education, he could be dangerous."
Eben Hopson would not go to high school.
Everyone in town knew it. Eben knew it. His classmates knew it.
That is why, when they met on the beach to wait for the small boat which would take them to the North Star, the students were so quiet.
Even so, Eben had resolved that when the boat came, he would he ready to go. Eben was not allowed to board. As the boat returned to the ship, Eben held his place on the beach, waiting with his duffel bag.
People passing by suggested he give up, and go home.
"No," he insisted, "they will send the boat back for me."
Eventually, the North Star weighed anchor, and departed from Barrow waters.
Still, Eben Hopson held his ground.
"Why don't you go home?" passers by asked.
"No," Eben replied, "it will come back for me."
Finally, Charlie Brower came by. Charlie thought that Eben had suffered a raw deal, and he sympathized with him. Still, he told the boy, "you've done all you can do. Now, why don't you go home, and get on with your life?" Eben refused to leave the beach. Many hours later, after the late night sun had finally dropped from the sky and disappeared behind the Arctic Ocean, Eben Hopson, a boy who would never attend high school, picked up his duffel bag, and walked slowly home.
Much later in his life, a friend of Eben's recalls him making the following statement: "There will be no child on the North Slope of Alaska who will be denied the opportunity to go to school."
(Special thanks To Edward Hopson, Flossie Hopson, and Jon Buchholdt for their help in putting together the pieces of this story.)
"We are proud of Eben Hopson. All Alaskans share our pride. As we grow older, we will speak with pride of our relationship with Eben Hopson. Our grandchildren will speak with pride of relatives who knew, hunted, soldiered, or worked with Eben Hopson. For the memory of Eben Hopson will become part of our Inupiat spiritual heritage. "The world has just begun to hear of Eben Hopson. Already a legend among us, his memory will grow to become a national treasure, and it will strengthen our cause all across the North American Arctic." - Lloyd Ahvakana, speaking at the funeral of Eben Hopson, Sr., in Barrow, Alaska, July 2, 1980.
"Eben Hopson, I remember he's the person who just can't back down from anyone. He was really for the villages. I grew up with him. There is nothing I could remember that is not acceptable in his ways. He's always doing something I could approve of.
"In other words, he was in my mind a person not capable of having anything but the betterment of our people in his mind." - The Reverend Samuel Simmonds, reminiscing a short time before the Twentieth Anniversary Celebration of the North Slope Borough, held on July 2, 1992.
"I would like to tell you first who my father was. Eben Hopson was a politician and a statesman. He was a man with a vision of life and the future unlike any other. Above all else, he was a true Inupiaq leader:" - Flossie Hopson Andersen, speaking before the General Assembly of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference, Inuvik. NWT, July 24. 1992.
"We, Inupiat, are an indigenous circumpolar community. We have a common regional economic community of interest. For thousands of years, our common economic interests have centered upon the food chain upon which we depend for survival. Our economic and social welfare depended upon the migratory birds and animals, all protected now under international treaty. We, Inupiat still are a community bound together by the game we hunt and eat, and are bound tightly by the environment that sustains the game we hunt - the sea. For me, the Beaufort Sea. The Arctic Ocean.
"Now, since the Prudhoe Bay oil strike. we have been additionally bound by the world's need for our oil gas and coal. For the first time in our history, others covet the wealth of our land which, until recently, was viewed by most as a frozen wasteland." - Eben Hopson
From the beginning of his life, Eben Hopson seemed destined to be first. On November 7, 1922, the son of Al and Maggie Hopson became the first baby born in the new Barrow mission hospital. He was the first student at the Barrow BIA Day School to stage a civil rights protest, and to be banned from attending high school for political reasons. He was the first person anyone locally could remember being drafted into the Army with a wife eight months pregnant. His induction came from an all-white draft board, composed of the same people Hopson had challenged during his school rebellion.
As a Bosun's mate, Hopson was the first Inupiat ever put in command of a non-Native crew in an Army tug plying the waters of the Aleutian Islands. He helped found, and served on, the first Barrow City Council. He was a Captain in the First Scout Battalion of the Alaska National Guard. After serving in the Alaska Territorial Legislature, Hopson was elected to the first Alaska State Senate.
Hopson served as the first Executive Director of ASNA, as the first Vice-president and the first Executive Director of the Alaska Federation of Natives.
As anyone at all familiar with the Arctic Slope realizes, Eben Hopson was also the founding Mayor of the North Slope Borough.
Along the way there, he had accomplished much. He had acquired the skills of a carpenter. After the Aleutians, the Army transferred Hopson to Nome to work with American and Soviet pilots in a program which provided American war planes to Soviets battling Hitler and the Axis forces.
After the war, Hopson settled down with wife Rebecca to raise a family which would grow to include 12 children. Before entering politics, he would help build the DewLine radar sites dotting the Arctic Coast.
It is said Hopson would likely have been chosen president of the 2nd State Senate had he not been in Washington, D.C., leading an Eskimo Scout Battalion in the inauguration parade for President John F. Kennedy.
Hopson was a whaler. As the eldest boy in the family, Eben's brother Eddie inherited their father's whaling equipment. Eben whaled with Eddie, and harpooned many bowheads, more than Eddie can remember. "Many times," Eddie recalls in tribute, "Eben would strike a whale and it would die right now, an instant kill. I can remember Eben harpooning a whale when the bomb didn't go off. Still, it was an instant kill."
During his time in the AFN, Hopson negotiated a $250,000 loan for the organization from the Yakima Indians of Washington state. In 1970, Hopson became Special Assistant for Native Affairs to Governor William Egan. Natives knew the State of Alaska as an opponent to self-determination. Hopson worked to improve relations between the State and Natives, and to make the state more hospitable toward Native concerns. Although the biggest portion of the legwork for the founding of the North Slope Borough was done by ASNA members working out of Barrow and the villages, those who knew Hopson best say his efforts from within State government helped create the atmosphere necessary to win acceptance for the new Borough.
His accomplishments as Mayor cannot be disputed. They are there for all to see each time their child enters a school, each time a family gathers in a warm, modern house, whenever a car drives down a village road, or an airplane lands on a village strip; when a winterized, fully equipped fire truck responds to a fire, or when an ambulance picks up a critically ill baby, and a swift aircraft flies it to a hospital and a new chance at life. Hopson's accomplishments are evident whenever someone flushes a toilet in an Arctic community. Before his time, this had never happened. Hopson envisioned toilets across the Arctic.
Not all of Hopson's dreams have been realized, but the work is under way.
It has been a long and challenging work.
At no time was it more so than when Hopson first took office. Other than the paltry $25,000 organizational grant provided by the State of Alaska, the Borough had no money. Countless billions of dollars worth of oil lay beneath the permafrost of the Prudhoe Bay, yet not one dollar of it was available to the North Slope Borough. The first step was just to get the new Borough up and running. As ASNA had done before, the Borough turned to the Presbyterian Church. Hopson called once again upon Bob Dupere to put together a plan to sell Revenue participation" bonds to investors to raise funds for the Borough.
Among the members of the first planning commission was the Reverend Charles White. After becoming acquainted with Reverend White at a meeting in Anchorage, North Slope activists had invited him to come to Barrow and serve as their Pastor. Once here, they drafted him into the service of the new government. White would work closely with Hopson until the Mayor's death.
The Borough faced a major problem in selling its Revenue Participation Bonds. "My recollection." White says, "is that the oil companies had said to all the banks in Alaska 'if you in any way do anything to help the North Slope Borough, we will withdraw from all of our banking activities in Alaska."
As White remembers it, the Borough now had the bonds, but no one to sell them to, as no one wanted offend the industry. Once again, a delegation of North Slope Inupiat went before the executive committee of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, and to the Mission Council. The earlier Presbyterian money had been a grant, free and clear. Now, the Borough asked the church to purchase $150,000 worth of Revenue Participation bonds.
"There were many in the oil industry who were members of the Presbyterian Church," White recalls. "They relentlessly opposed the buying of Borough bonds. There were about 35-40 members of the Mission Council. They debated for some time, then approved the request by a one vote. Then they took a coffee break, and voted to reconsider. This time, the request failed by a vote of one." After much lobbying, Hopson's people convinced the council to take one more vote. The bond sale was narrowly approved, and would stay approved. Eben Hopson had $150,000 to begin running the Borough. Tax rolls could be developed, and tax policy set and executed. The school board could begin building an educational system sensitive to the needs of North Slope students.
Encouraged by the Presbyterians, other investors began placing their dollars in Borough bonds.
In June 1974, a delegation composed of Joseph Upicksoun, Eddie Hopson, Oliver Leavitt and Charles White would travel to Kentucky to attend the church's General Assembly. These were hard times for the Presbyterians. "The General Assembly," White explains, "was more than flat broke."
Joe Upicksoun addressed the assembly on behalf of ASNA. "During our time of need," Upicksoun stated, "you gave us $85,000." He then presented them with a check for the same amount. "You used your money for us," Upicksoun explained. "Now use it for somebody else that needs help."
It was the first time a grant had ever been paid back to the Presbyterian Church.
Then Oliver Leavitt stepped up. Leavitt presented the Presbyterians with a check for $150.000, plus interest. "People still talk about it," White notes. "The people were so depressed; their financial situation was terrible. Then here come these Eskimos, making a gift of $85,000 and repaying a $150,000 loan. Afterward, Oliver was followed by all these little old ladies. They kept asking him if he would come and serve as financial council to thc Church."
Despite their loss in the Alaska Supreme Court, the oil companies still fought to protect their wallets from Borough tax collectors.
They began a fight which would culminate with persuading Governor Egan to call a special session of the legislature in 1973. The purpose of the session would be to pass legislation to prevent the Borough from raising revenue by taxing the oil industry. While the legislation would fail to achieve this extreme of a measure, it would succeed at placing a "tax cap" upon the Borough.
Property taxes are figured in "mil rates." The higher the mil rate, the more tax a government can collect. There is a limit to how high the mill rate can go. In almost all cases, that limit is 30 mils. If there had been a timber or fish processing industry on the Arctic Slope, the Borough could levy property taxes of up to 30 mils. A tax cap of 20 mils was on all property taxes levied on the oil industry. Money raised from this tax could only be used to run the operations of the Borough.
It could not be used for capital improvements: it could not build schools, fire stations, medical clinics, heavy equipment shops. roads or airports - none of the improvements the people of the North Slope had fought for.
Eben Hopson again found himself running a Borough facing a cash crisis. Down in the Lower 48 states, North Slope oil would soon break the strangle hold the Oil Producing and Exporting Countries held on the nation's fuel supply. North Slope oil would bring down the price of gasoline, create jobs from coast to coast, and would help pull America out of a major recession. Yet, it appeared the dreams of the Inupiat to build the kind of modern world taken for granted across America had been thwarted, once again.
Eben Hopson was not the kind of person to back down to anyone. Jon Buchholdt, a close special assistant to Hopson, believes that the pain suffered by the Mayor when he was denied his high school education, and when he was drafted into the Army, helped prepare him for battles such as this.
"By not going off to school," Buchholdt says, "Eben had never been taught to believe he was anything less than anyone else. The idea that because someone in a supposedly higher place than he said something could not be done did not make it so. In his work in the Army, Hopson had dealt with Russian aviators and other non-Native people who accepted him as an equal. He had been in command of Non-Natives. He was not shy about standing up to the Non-Native system."
Hopson and his advisors poured over the laws governing municipal governments. They realized they had a tool available which no one else in Alaska had ever used. Again, Eben and the new Borough would score a first. Although the Borough could not exceed the mil rate to fund Capital Improvements, it could to pay off General Obligation Bonds.
Based on the oil industry's ability to repay the bonds through taxes, there was no limit to the amount of bonds the Borough could issue. So massive were the fields at Prudhoe Bay, and so great the oil industry infrastructure, that the potential was almost limitless.
Hopson soon initiated the first bond sale, and the voters approved it. The bonds were sold. Where once the Borough had struggled with the $25,000 grant, it suddenly had a fully funded, $150 million dollar Capital Improvements Program. Over the next decade, the value of the CIP program would increase to $1 billion dollars.
Overnight, the communities of the Borough changed from small groupings of sod huts and shacks built of whatever lumber the owners might salvage to bustling, building, growing communities. During the short open water season, barges unloaded huge boxes filled with the materials for houses and buildings, and brought in heavy equipment. Large airstrips grew where only bush planes had been able to land. Soon, big planes flew in needed supplies and equipment during the frozen months.
Those close to Hopson say he did not worry about the expense. "This will never be cheaper to build than it is right now," he is quoted as saying. When it looked as though the Borough's housing plans would come to a stand still due to a shortage of lumber, Buchholdt recalls, Hopson sent one of his aides to Washington State with a million dollar check to a buy a forest.
Today, many villagers live within walls built from that forest.
Hopson insisted construction jobs go first to local residents. "He wouldn't allow anyone from outside the slope to be hired unless there was no one locally who could fill the jobs," Buchholdt says. "Mayor Hopson insisted they be paid top wages." Hopson was not looking for cheap labor. North Slope oil was fueling the economy of the oil industry, the State of Alaska and the city of Anchorage, as well as many people in the Lower 48, and the foreign owners of British Petroleum.
Hopson was determined to divert as much of that money back to the original owners of the oil as was possible.
Long before the founding of the Borough. Hopson had been bothered by the fact that just outside of Barrow large fields of natural gas had been tapped by the Navy. The Navy used this supply to heat all the operations of the sprawling Naval Arctic Research Laboratory, just north of town. Yet, the people of Barrow were denied access to the same gas. While the government workers at the lab were waking up in heated homes and going to heated offices, the people of the village were out gathering driftwood and coal, waking up in cold houses. and using Coleman Stoves to melt snow with which to wash their faces.
During his time on the Barrow City council, Hopson had helped persuade the Navy to share the gas with the community. As Mayor, he launched the process which ultimately resulted in ownership of the gas wells being transferred to the North Slope Borough.
After being reelected Mayor in 1975, Hopson was invited by John Melcher, Chairman of the House Interior Subcommittee on Public Lands, to send a planning team to Washington. There, Hopson's people worked to draft legislation that resulted in the transfer of the Naval Petroleum Reserve No.4 to the control of the Department of Interior. This led to a massive three-year, $500 million study of the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska. While the Nation's interest was finding any oil or other riches that might benefit the country as a whole, Hopson led the Borough's efforts in proving the region to be rich in historical and cultural wealth more valuable than oil.
In 1976, Hopson won the Democratic nomination to run for Congress against Don Young. He began running with a lead in the polls, but was then stricken with cancer. After an operation in Seattle he returned to campaign hard across both urban and rural Alaska. The press gave much publicity to Hopson's cancer. He lost to Young.
As his daughter, Flossie Andersen would point out to a gathering of the same body in the Northwest Territories 15 years later, her father knew the entire Arctic to be interrelated, "Although our lands, our countries, may be miles apart we still share the same oceans, air and environment," Hopson said. "An oil spill in the Eastern Beaufort Sea will eventually affect the Western Beaufort. And the same goes for the Chukchi Sea and our oceans. Our marine mammals calve and feed in these waters and will be affected as well.
"Our environment is the critical habitat for many wildlife resources. If we allow pollution, be it oil spills or air pollution, to occur or to continue to occur at any rate, our homeland will be destroyed."
Realizing this, Hopson knew it was not enough for the North Slope Borough to take control. He knew that it was not enough to plan and zone to force industry, the State, and the U.S. to operate safely in just Alaska. The entire Arctic had to be involved.
Hopson set out to create another first - the first union of the Inuit peoples living in the Soviet Union, Alaska, Canada, and Greenland. Off shore oil exploration was increasing across the Arctic, threatening the tradition of whale hunting, and of living on other marine mammals.
To counter the threat, Hopson called all the Inuit to gather together in one union. Their goal would be to create an Arctic Policy which would then govern industrial development across the entire Arctic.
Those who knew Eben Hopson best say the first meeting of the ICC in 1977 in Barrow was the high point of his career "In five days of prodigious work," the Arctic Coastal Zone Management Newsletter reported, "the delegates hammered out seventeen resolutions on Inuit land claims, Arctic environmental protection, Arctic health and technology, and Inuit culture and education."
"This meeting provides me an opportunity to comment upon the role of the scientist in the bowhead whaling controversy. I regard this role to have been more political than scientific, and I would say that scientists have played the leading role in the politics of the bowhead whale. Our bowhead whaling has become a symbolic pawn in the international politics of commercial fishing." - Eben Hopson
As it happened, that gathering took place just after an organization few Inupiat had ever heard of - the International Whaling Commission - suddenly announced the traditional hunt of the bowhead whale must stop. No one on the North Slope, not Eben Hopson nor one whaler, believed that the IWC had any authority over Inupiat hunters. Unfortunately, the U.S. was a member nation of IWC. Among those people who like to call themselves envi- ronmentalists, there were many world wide calling for the end of all whale killing across the planet. They demonstrated and carried signs equating whale hunters with murderers. One of their spokesmen dismissed the modern day Inupiat as a "bastardized culture" no longer in need of the whale.
Not wanting to offend these forces, U.S. President Jimmy Carter agreed to enforce the IWC ban. Suddenly, Inupiat hunters faced the real prospect of imprisonment for doing what they had always done to feed Arctic families and Arctic communities with the food of the Arctic. Now, the real value of the Borough would be demonstrated.
To combat the moves of the IWC, the hunters organized under the umbrella of the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission. A commission without money can not wage a major battle on a world wide front. Borough money brought whalers from all across the Arctic together in Barrow, fueled trips to England, Tokyo, Argentina, and wherever it became necessary to defend whaling. Borough money hired scientists to conduct long-lasting, in depth scientific research on the bowhead.
Scientists using only the skimpiest of data had concluded the bowhead population was endangered, and that it numbered as few as 600 animals. The Inupiat knew better, but, until a scientist said it, the world would not believe it. It would take many millions of dollars worth of research and many years before a scientist could say it.
"Now that we know that things are every bit as bad as we thought they were, we must document how insubstantial was the scientific justification for the 1977 IWC bowhead whaling ban, and we must begin, apparently for the first time, really, to learn about the bowhead whale. The bowhead has much to teach us about our Arctic homeland. Perhaps the shabbiness of America's bowhead research will make us realize our extreme environmental danger in the Arctic, and will lead us to shape up throughout all of the Arctic environmental sciences." - Eben Hopson
Without the money and commitment of the North Slope Borough, the struggle to keep the bowhead hunt alive would have been almost impossible.
The U.S., Hopson charged, "is not authorized to submit the dietary habits of U.S. citizens to the arbitration of the IWC." Some important, early victories would allow a limited hunt to continue, though the battle would continue for years to come. Indeed, though the situation has improved dramatically, it is an issue which still must be fought.
"Sharing is important social behavior in the Arctic. Like most behavior, sharing has rules. One of the most important of these is that sharing be a cooperative act of give and take. Sharing is a free but necessary behavior in our community. We want to share our wealth in oil, gas and coal, but we feel that we must have a say in the means by which our fuels are extracted from our land. Sharing means to us that we must be allowed to measure environ- mental risks in our own Inupiaq language.
"For, in our language is a whole natural science of the Arctic, and we feel that others should listen to us when we warn them against making a serious mistake. Year after year, we hear of scientists discovering things at the Naval Arctic Research Lab that are common knowledge among us. Through a sharing relation- ship, we could enable faster, environmentally safer, Arctic resource development. We are the experts on the ice, and ice is the biggest problem facing Arctic Shelf development." - Eben Hopson
Hopson sought to protect the whole Arctic environment. "Marshaling the best talent he could find," the Arctic Coastal Zone Newsletter reported, "he mounted a detailed zoning plan for the Arctic coast and presented to the state and the nation a Coastal Management Program which he felt provided an environmentally safe program for the industrial development of America's Arctic coastline.
"As the State and Federal government approached the Joint Federal/State Beaufort Sea Oil and Gas Lease Sale in 1979, Eben and his staff scrutinized the Environmental Impact Statement and found it wanting in several important areas. He sued to stop the sale and found a sympathetic ear in U.S. District Court Judge Aubry Robinson in Washington, D.C. who stopped the sale as the government had failed to exercise its Native trust responsibility and for neglecting protection of the endangered bowhead. As cancer forced Hopson to slow down early in 1980 the case was both being appealed and negotiated out of court."
June of 1980 was both a very exciting and a terribly sad time all across the Arctic. Inuit delegates from every nation except the Soviet Union were gathering in Nuuk, Greenland to further the work of the ICC.
Eben Hopson was not among them. He had entered the Barrow Public Health Hospital on June 16. He fell into a coma, and died June 28. It was the opening day of the Second Inuit Circumpolar Conference. His death greatly saddened the Inuit delegates, but did not stop them. Greenland had joined with Alaska in supporting the ICC charter Hopson backed, but Canada was balking. Driven by the news of Eben's death, the Alaskans pushed even harder until they won Canadian support. The charter was passed.
ICC gatherings are a time of dance and social exchange. As to the effect Eben's death had on the gathering, the Arctic Coastal Zone Newsletter said this:
"The press quickly realized they were covering a story of deep spiritual dimension. This became obvious to them on Thursday evening, when the Wainwright and King Island dancers from Alaska performed for a standing room audience of Greenlanders and conference visitors at Nuuk's downtown community center. Greenlandic drum dancing was suppressed by early Moravian missionaries, and survives today only in two or three traditional outlying villages in North and East Greenland.
"The traditional Inupiat chants and dancing moved many in the audience to tears, and when the dancing ended and the crowd filed out into the late Arctic evening sunshine, it was clear the Inuit Circumpolar Conference would be as profound a spiritual experience for Nuuk in 1980 as it was for Barrow in 1977."
In a special tribute, the newsletter reported, "Jens Christian Chemnitz delivered a moving eulogy in which he likened Eben Hopson to Moses, permitted only to lead his people into a new and better time, but not himself allowed to enjoy the fruits of his leadership.
"Wainwright's Weir Negovanna played "Nearer My God To Thee" on his musical saw, an achingly beautiful tribute which brought tears to the solemn gathering. At the request of Eben's family, Bishop Chemnitz asked his clergy to lead their Sunday congregations in prayer for Eben's soul, and a special memorial service was conducted Sunday afternoon. Eben Hopson had become a national hero in Greenland. He had given life to Greenland's ancient dream of solidarity and union of all Inuit.'
Eben Hopson was buried in Barrow on July 2, the eighth anniversary of the founding of the North Slope Borough.
He was 57 years old.
"I guess its too bad he had to leave us so soon. I have a feeling he felt good about what he had done, felt good about the Borough. I'm sure, though, that he felt his time here was not enough. I'm sure it was hard, pretty hard, having to leave so soon. He probably felt like there was more he would like to see done. Even today, our Native regional corporation can't develop their own land to benefit their own people, to create more tax base. I'm sure Eben would have like to have worked on that one. Still, I'm sure he's satisfied with the Borough, glad that the Borough is going ahead." - Eddie Hopson
It is hard to imagine a new mayor taking over the leadership of the North Slope Borough under more difficult conditions than those facing 33 year old Jacob Adams when he was sworn in on July 8, 1980.
Eben Hopson had just died in office. Behind him, a giant gap had been left, and it needed to be filled.
The traditional bowhead whale hunting culture of the North Slope Inupiat had been under severe assault at both national and international levels. Now, in 1980, the anti-whaling forces had geared up to wage the most vicious assault yet against the whalers. Some of the North Slope's most respected hunters were being treated as criminals.
A flawed scientific study was being advanced in an effort to put an end to bowhead hunting forever.
After the death of Hopson, the assembly met to choose a new mayor. NSB Finance Director Lloyd Ahvakana had been serving as acting mayor throughout the final months of Hopson's illness. In their discussions, assembly members agreed that an elected official should be sitting in the mayor's office.
They chose Adams, the NSB Assembly president, to fill the role until the next municipal election, scheduled for October. North Slope voters then voted Adams in to serve out the one year remaining in Hopson's term.
A graduate of Mt. Edgecumbe High School, Adams had served on the Barrow City Council as well as the NSB Assembly. In 1971, he had been elected Mayor of the City of Barrow, a position he held until 1977.
When the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation was organized in 1971. Adams was elected to the board of directors. He was serving as ASRC vice-president for lands when he was chosen to succeed Hopson.
Of all his former responsibilities, perhaps none had better prepared Adams for what he faced as mayor than his role as president of the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission, a position he had held from the time the organization was first formed until he became Mayor.
In the fight to save the bowhead hunt, Adams had already traveled to foreign capitols such as London, as well as to Washington, D.C. He had met the leaders of not only of those who supported the Inupiat cause, but also of those who fought it.
"Before all else," a supporter said at the time, "Jacob Adams is a whaling captain, a hunter with a keen commitment to the land. His appointment as mayor was strong recognition of this commitment."
This was a commitment about to be tested.
For some time, there had been rumors that a federal investigation into Inupiat whale hunting would result in the subpoena of whaling captains to testify in secret before a federal grand jury.
Although the government had no evidence any hunters had broken the law, the grand jury hoped to force hunters testifying in secret to incriminate their fellow hunters.
Adams had hardly finished taking his oath when word reached the people of the North Slope that their mayor was one of those whalers who was about to be subpoenaed.
As it happened, Adams was spared that indignity, but four of his fellow whalers Eugene Brower, Lloyd Ahvakana, Rossman Peetook and Roger Silook, along with AEWC Science Coordinator, Ray Dronenberg, were.
As mayor, Adams threw his full support to the whalers, all of whom refused to answer the grand jury's questions.
"Let me tell you, the battle lines are drawn," Adams declared. "On the one side we stand, the Eskimos, prepared to fight for our cultural existence .... The cultural bond that has held us for so long must continue regardless of any obstructions, because a world that does not preserve cultures is as unbearable as a world that does not preserve species."
Adams denounced the grand jury subpoenas as "an ill-conceived witch hunt. No other country in the world subjects its citizens to criminal prosecution for violating whale quotas."
With strong support from U.S. Senator Ted Stevens, the whalers held their ground. Finally, a federal judge ruled that the grand jury was out of line, and ordered the subpoenas dropped.
On the quota front, the hunters had just suffered a major disappointment. At great sacrifice, they had honored quotas as small as 12 landed whales for all of Alaska in the belief that by proving themselves responsible, coupled with an improved scientific effort that was proving the whale population to be larger than the world believed, the hunters would be allowed to take enough bowheads to satisfy their needs.
Instead, they found themselves with a three year quota allowing no more than 17 landed whales per year, facing a federal report claiming that, no matter what, bowheads would be extinct within a century. Using this report as a weapon, there was an effort in the IWC to end Inupiat hunting forever.
Working closely with the AEWC and scientists from the Borough, the University of Alaska, and elsewhere in the nation, Mayor Adams helped prove this report false.
During the spring of 1981, Mayor Adams, along with the leadership of AEWC played one of the key roles in winning the whalers one of their most important victories. In what would be the beginning of a steady upward rise in the quota, they negotiated a "cooperative agreement" with the federal government.
Under the agreement, the federal government recognized the right of the Inupiat to manage their own hunt.
Conditions have been improving since.
Mayor Adams was also responsible for launching the Borough's Geographic Information mapping system, and for improving relations between the borough and the oil industry at Prudhoe Bay.
Growth on the North Slope these past two decades has been more rapid than anywhere else in the nation. The biggest boom years occurred during the administration of Mayor Eugene Brower, when the building envisioned and begun during the time of Eben Hopson blossomed into an exciting flurry of activity. Houses, buildings, roads, airports, high schools, power plants, communication systems and even sewer systems grew where they had existed not at all.
"Mayor Eben Hopson's priorities were to provide the Borough with life, health, safety and education facilities while we still had the tax base to pay for it," Brower recalls.
"These became my priorities." At that time, inflation raged in the U.S. Each month, a dollar bought less than it had the month before.
"There was never going to be a cheaper time to build," Brower says. So build the Borough did. The administration and the assembly had agreed upon a six year plan to spend up to $150 million a year on capital improvement projects (CIP). Construction surged on all the kinds of facilities that people in Anchorage took for granted, but that the North had never seen.
Many problems had to be overcome. No roads connected Borough communities. All freight came by barge or air, and the sea was only open two months of the year. Most village airports were too small to accommodate airplanes large enough to haul the freight needed to build health clinics, and schools.
Never before had there been large scale construction ventures undertaken in an Arctic climate so severe as that of the North Slope.
Federal Native housing programs of the time tended to transport low-cost homes designed for Indian reservations in the Lower 48, to Alaska. Elsewhere in the bush, these homes had been built with disastrous results.
Something better was needed, and the problems were many.
"We had no hardware stores," Brower recalls. "If you ran out of nails, you couldn't just drive down to the corner and buy some. Everything had to be planned for and ordered for the barge up to two years in advance."
For the villages, the first priorities were to bring in the material and equipment to upgrade the airstrips, so that large planes could land, and to provide new housing.
Even before roads were built village housing construction began. Materials and equipment were transported on sledges and skids.
Soon, the facilities students see today as though they were always there began to appear - the fire stations, health clinics, schools, the heavy equipment shops, power plants, water systems, and sewage facilities.
Jobs were plentiful and high paying. Young people fresh out of high school earned as much as $70,000 a year. Anyone who desired could find work.
A common complaint in the villages is that Barrow often gets everything ahead of them. According to Brower, the villages were actually put first in most instances.
"One of our top priorities was to put modern housing into all the villages," Brower explains. "That is why, when you go to the villages today, almost everyone has housing. We never did this in Barrow. Even today, you see a lot of people in Barrow living in older houses built between the 1950's and '70's. If you lived in Barrow, you had to go to the bank to get financing to build a home." Brower notes that the Borough put driveways into village homes, but never did in Barrow.
The Borough built up the village airfields, and placed radio navigation aids to help pilots locate the strips in poor weather.
What the Borough did do in Barrow that was done nowhere else was put in a water and sewer utilidor. Mayor Hopson and the assembly had launched studies to see what kind of system would work well in Barrow. Above ground utilidors were rejected.
An underground utilidor which was essential an insulated underground tunnel designed by Frank Moolin and Associates, was finally decided upon. A test strip of utilidor was constructed in Block A, and several homes were connected.
"It worked beautifully," Brower recalls. Plans were made to run the utilidor all through Barrow.
Brower recalls that the Borough faced much jealousy elsewhere in the state, because it had a tax base. Across Alaska, the state used revenues it acquired from the oil of the Inupiat homeland to build schools, hospitals, clinics, and other services, but did very little to help the North Slope.
"Through all these years, we had never had much help from the state and federal governments," Brower recalls. "We had to do it ourselves. "It was exciting. It was a tremendous undertaking."
There were also some highly trusted individuals who saw an opportunity to take advantage of the rapid growth to make themselves rich.
An audit initiated by the following administration revealed that two aides, Lewis Dischner and Carl Mathisen, had used their positions to pressure contractors to pay them "kickbacks" from the Borough jobs they landed.
Dischner and Mathisen were subsequently convicted of more than 20 counts of bribery, fraud, and other charges. They were sentenced to seven years in prison each, and ordered to forfeit more than $10 million of their allegedly crooked earnings back to the Borough.
"It was a big blow," Brower says of the shock. "These were two of the most trusted people on my staff."
While Brower states that this happened during his administration and says he accepts the responsibility, it is an incident which has caused he and his family much pain.
"I did everything to the best of my ability, but this is an incident I have to bear," he explains, "this is a chapter in my life I have to live with." What has hurt most, he says, is the pain this caused his wife and children.
Brower is adamant about giving one message to the public. While he believes he has taken the brunt of all the public and media scrutiny, he says the assembly shared in the decisions of the Borough government.
"I feel like I have been a pawn all these years," Brower says. "Any time there is a problem, it is laid on my administration. Eight years has passed. Enough is enough!"
Despite the controversy, Brower says he finds much to be proud of. "When I see the airports, the fire stations, the health clinics, these are the very basic life safety facilities our Federal and State governments refused to budget. We built them. I feel good about that."
Death threats greeted George Ahmaogak during the early days of his administration. Sometimes, he answered his phone to hear a threatening voice, and other times, nothing but silence. Shots were fired in the yard of a close advisor. During a trip to Anchorage, a suspicious looking pair of men in suits followed the Mayor and his wife everywhere they went.
This happened after Ahmaogak released the compliance audit that revealed the corruption and fraud that led to the convictions of Carl Mathisen and Lewis Dischner.
To safeguard against such abuses in the future, the Ahmaogak administration led a process of reform which was approved by the assembly and which required that he, and all subsequent mayors, reveal all sole-source bids in excess of $ 100,000 to the Assembly. The Assembly must approve all bids over $300,000.
Regular audits of all Borough financial activities also became required, to help insure that nothing like this would ever happen again.
Ahmaogak also faced a major funding problem. Under Alaska State law, the more money the North Slope Borough collects in property taxes from the oil industry, the less the State is paid.
The State of Alaska tried to lower the borough's "tax cap," or the amount the Borough could collect from the industry. This would have taken tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars from the Borough and given it to the State of Alaska.
There would have been less money for all borough services, such as schools, and clinics. "This "tax cap" issue is one of the most critical facing the Borough," Ahmaogak said after fighting off the attempt. "Every Mayor has had to deal with this. It is critical to the future of our local government."
Among some of Mayor Ahmaogak's other accomplishments are the following:
-The completion of the Senior Center.
- NPRA grants. When the Federal government sold oil and gas exploration leases in the petroleum reserve, it set aside $50 million to help local communities deal with the impacts, When the money came to the State, then Governor Bill Sheffield locked it away in the Alaska Permanent Fund.' 'The local communities impacted were North Slope Communities," Ahmaogak stresses. "Not the State of Alaska." He sued the governor, won, and then with a lot of help from State Senator Frank Ferguson and then Representative Al Adams, got $21 million back to the Borough.
- ANWR. After consulting the village of Kaktovik, Ahmaogak joined the Assembly in committing the Borough to the opening up the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil and gas exploration and development - with strict guidelines to protect wildlife, and to provide impact aid for North Slope Communities.
Working closely with the Assembly, the Ahmaogak administration entered into an agreement with the IHS to share funding which resulted in doctors becoming Borough employees. In return, they are asked to make a commitment to stay in Barrow for at least one year.
Statistically, our infant mortality rate has been among the highest in the nation. Far too many babies were dying, with too heavy a toll in grief and lost hopes. Early in the Ahmaogak administration a pre-maternal home was opened in Barrow. Now, pregnant mothers leave their homes in the villages anywhere from three to six weeks ahead of their due date to stay in the pre- maternal home. There, they have easy access to medical checkups, and are a short ride away from the hospital when it is time for their babies to be born.
Far fewer babies now die at birth.
Perhaps one of Ahmaogak's more important acts was the establishment of the Mayor's Blue Ribbon Panel on Alcohol and Drug Abuse. One of those on the panel was Michael Jeffrey, Barrow's Alaska Superior Court Judge. From his position on the bench, Judge Jeffrey has a daily, first-hand view of the pain and suffering wrought by substance abuse.
"Of the cases that come before me, 95 percent or more involve alcohol or drugs," Jeffrey noted.
The Blue Ribbon Panel recommended that a residential alcohol and drug treatment center be built in Barrow. This led to the construction of the Substance Abuse and Treatment Services facili- ty. Here, many North Slope residents find help for alcohol and drug related problems.
Disaster struck several times during the Ahmaogak years. Two of the worst tragedies involved fires which destroyed the high school in Wainwright, and a big part of Ipalook Elementary in Barrow. Working with the Assembly, the Ahmaogak administration rapidly responded to both situations, and construction soon began in both villages.
The heavy construction of the Brower term slowed down considerably during Ahmaogak's six years in office. With the construction went many jobs. In response, the Ahmaogak adminis- tration created the Mayor's Job Program, followed by the Resident Employment and Living Improvements Program, or RELI. Under these programs, jobs were created doing upkeep work on what had been built, and adding improvements to residential housing.
Today, the need to stand up for the interests of the people of the North Slope is as important as it was when the membership of the Arctic Slope Native Association first met.
"The Borough is going to continue to protect the interests of the residents of our community," Mayor Jeslie Kaleak states.
"We are going to protect Inupiat culture and subsistence. We have had rapid progress. In 20 years, we have done what it took the rest of the nation 200 years to do. Yet, we still need to improve the services we offer to our people, and we are going to.
"We have much work left to do."
Kaleak ran for mayor at the urging of a number of Elders. Now that he holds the Borough's highest office, he feels a need to continue working to realize the goals of the founders of the North Slope Borough.
Although many residents of Barrow are connected to the utilidor and are able to turn on the tap and get running water, and to flush a toilet, there are many who are not.
"I think it is about time the villages got water and sewer improvements," Kaleak explains. "This is one of our most critical health and life-safety issues."
In 1992, an Anchorage Daily News series on water and sewer treatment in Rural Alaska publicized the health threats residents of the bush face because of inadequate water and sewer systems. Many diseases, most notably hepatitis, cause far more problems in Rural Alaska than anywhere else in the U.S.
In travels to the villages, Mayor Kaleak and his staff have heard the residents repeatedly tell of their desire to have water and sewer systems constructed.
In response, the Kaleak administration has launched an initiative to finally bring to reality Eben Hopson's dream of having a flush toilet in every home.
Even so, the Mayor cautions, it will be a time consuming endeavor which will take years to complete.
To begin with, Borough staff is meeting with villagers to determine what each community needs. Other types of systems, such as the utilidor and direct bury in Barrow, and above ground, insulated pipes used elsewhere, are being studied for cost and effectiveness.
Each village on the North Slope has a nearby freshwater lake which supplies most of the community's drinking water.
Once a water and sewer system is in place, once people can turn on their taps, hook up their washing machines, and have water flow without running limited storage tanks dry, far more water than ever before will be used.
Studies must be done to find out if the lakes now in use have enough water to meet future needs, or if new sources must be found. In the Arctic, water is never cheap. The Borough now charges seven cents a gallon for water delivered to village homes. It still needs to be determined what village utilidor systems would cost.
To help find the answers to these kinds of questions, Mayor Kaleak says village input is needed before it is presented to the NSB Planning Commission for review and consideration.
Once this is done, the Assembly will schedule a public hearing. Finally, the issue will be put to a public vote.
If the voters of the Borough approve the plan and the costs, and authorize a bond sale, village water and sewer systems could become reality. Not only is Mayor Kaleak enthusiastically pursing the issue, he is optimistic as to it's chances for success.
"I think we could see construction begin in at least one of our villages in the very near future." Kaleak says. "We will employ as many of our people on these projects as possible. We will need carpenters, laborers, heavy equipment operators, book keepers...
"We are working with Arctic Sivunmun Ilisagvik College to develop training programs so that our people can run these sys- tems."
Welders will be trained, along with water and sewer treatment technicians, and people to fill other related jobs.
"As much as is possible, we need our local people to operate and maintain these systems once they are in place," Kaleak explains.
As have all the mayors before him, Kaleak has a deep concern for the Elders.
"These are the people who have kept our culture alive, and who fought so we could have what we have today," Kaleak says. "We have Elders who need health care. It still hurts to see our Elders being housed in nursing homes in Fairbanks, and other places.
"These are strange places to them, foreign places. We need to bring them home."
Utuqqanaaqagvik, the NSB senior center in Barrow, was built to provide housing for Elders in reasonably good health, Elders who do not need continuous medical care.
Renovations completed in one wing of Utuqqanaaqagvik under Kaleak's watch have brought health care home for more, but not all, of the North Slope Elders.
In this wing, care will be offered to Elders who need assistance, but who are basically able to care for themselves. An Elder in a wheelchair who is alert and able to get around, but who needs help getting out of bed and into the shower, would qualify for care here.
"It is not 24 hour care," Kaleak stresses. His administration is studying what needs to be done to construct a true nursing home in Barrow - a place where an Elder needing a bed and the constant care of doctors and nurses can stay, and still be close to their family and friends.
"This is one of my most important priorities," Kaleak emphasizes. "To bring our Elders, who have given us so much, home."
In one way or another, all the concerns that motivated Borough founders must still be dealt with by Mayor Kaleak, and by those who will follow him.
Kaleak takes pride that the new Ipalook Elementary school in Barrow, built to replace an outdated facility damaged by fire, was completed ahead of schedule and under-budget. Some students reading this will soon be attending class in the new Eben Hopson Middle School. Students in Nuiqsut outgrew their high school, so a new wing was constructed in 1992.
There will never be a time when a Borough Mayor does not have to face subsistence questions. Under Mayor Kaleak, the Borough is conducting a review whale census to keep IWC and the international community updated on the current status of the whale.
An oil lease sale was just held just north of the Brooks Range in an area critical to the hunting success of the people of Anaktuvuk Pass. Utilizing the Borough's zoning powers, Mayor Kaleak is consulting with the village and the industry to insure that any potential harm to the caribou of the region is mitigated. In the late summer of 1992, all residents of the borough were shocked to learn that the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission had illegally and arrogantly left buried soil contaminated with nuclear waste brought up from a Nevada blast site to Project Chariot, just south of Cape Thompson, in 1962.
This is where the government once planned to detonate nuclear explosives to blast out a deep water port. Inupiat opposition finally helped force a shut down of that misguided operation, but not before the government ran secret tests to see how radiation traveled in soil and water - in this case, the soil and water of one of the most prime hunting grounds of the people of Point Hope. In response, Kaleak has led the borough in hiring its own team of radiation experts to monitor the federal cleanup of the site. Thanks to the presence of the North Slope Borough, Kaleak does not believe an incident like this could happen again.
"Today, we are actively involved in all projects taking place within the 88,000 square miles of the North Slope Borough," Kaleak explains. "We have our coastal zone and land management powers, and we are watching close."
Although by law, each Mayor is limited to two consecutive three year terms in office, they must all look far beyond their time.
"We need to think about future tax revenue for the Borough now," Kaleak stresses. "We have built this great infrastructure. We need to continually maintain and improve it, for our generations yet to come."
Oil development on the Coastal Plain of ANWR offers perhaps the best source of revenue, but has been strongly and effectively opposed by environmental groups across the nation.
"I just don't know when ANWR is going to open up, "Kaleak says. "We have a potential for future revenues from the West Sak oil fields, and huge reserves of Western Arctic coal. These are things we are looking at."
Alcohol and drug abuse continue to hurt the residents of the North Slope. Helping people overcome these battles is a task most close to Mayor Kaleak's heart. He feels no shame in telling anyone that he is a recovering alcoholic.
"If I hadn't sobered up, I wouldn't be in the position I am today. It is important now for me to be a role model. If I can sober up, anyone can." Kaleak has a strong interest in SATS, and all Borough programs fighting substance abuse. Even for those who have tried and fallen again, Kaleak urges hope. "I had three slips. In the end, all I had to do was learn to say 'no!'"
Twenty Years on the Assembly
The President's View
Oliver Leavitt left the North Slope when he was young, and swore he would never come back. "I got a taste of Lower 48 life," Leavitt recalls. "I found out it was comfortable. People up here didn't have anything."
The school Leavitt remembers from childhood was small, with several classes put together in one room.
"When we got up in the morning, the house was cold. We couldn't afford to heat our house at night. The only places that were heated were government facilities, like the hospital, and the Weather Bureau. When we got up, in order to wash our faces, we had to melt ice. We had to light up a Coleman Stove, and melt the ice. Then we would run to school. We couldn't run fast enough, because we knew the school was the only place that was warm. There were no school buses, no vehicles, to take us to school. We had to walk when it was 40 or 50 below.
"I was fortunate in that I did not live too far from the school. The kids who lived in Browerville it was a 1ong, cold walk for them."
There was no electricity. Only a Coleman lantern lit the night. "There was lots of darkness in the winter," he explains.
After receiving his degree, Leavitt went to work for Bell Telephone, installing and testing communications systems, then spent a year in Viet Nam. "I had no intentions of ever coming back to Alaska," he recalls. "My buddies and I had talked, and decided that after we got back, we would go work in Europe."
In 1969, Leavitt returned to Barrow to spend Christmas with his family. "The land claims movement was going on. I had read about Joe Upicksoun and Etok in the Stars and Stripes, how they were working to get a land settlement for our people. I wished them well."
Still, Leavitt was not ready to abandon his plans to abandon the North Slope. On the way out of Barrow, Leavitt found himself in an airplane seat, next to Eben Hopson.
Hopson asked him what his plans were once he was discharged from the service. "I'm going to Europe for six years." Leavitt answered. "I'm going to work in communications systems, and bike around the continent with my buddies." Hopson opened up his briefcase, and pulled out some papers.
"Young man," he said, "we've been looking for guys just like you to help us: guys who have experience in the Lower 48 free enterprise system: young people who know how the competitive world works."
The flight from Barrow to Fairbanks took just under two hours. For the remainder of the trip, Leavitt listened as Hopson told him of the land claims movement, and what it meant to the Inupiat people. The Inupiat needed people like Leavitt working, not out biking around Europe somewhere.
Leavitt did not head for Europe. He returned to Barrow. to meet with Joe Upicksoun, and ASNA.
Leavitt quickly became active in the campaign for the Borough.
Before the first Borough elections, there was a general consensus among the people as to who would run for the different school board, assembly, and mayoral offices. "Joe said if anybody knows about the Borough, it is Eben. Eben was one of the guys in the legislature when they put together the mandatory Borough act. So when we first campaigned for the Borough, we asked Eben to run."
Leavitt was elected to the first assembly along with Jacob Adams, Eddie Hopson, Henry B. Kanayurak and John Nusunginya. He has served there since, and is now President of the Assembly.
The first challenge faced by the new Borough government was to find financing. "It was a struggle just to try to survive. The State wasn't helping much," Leavitt explains. "They gave $25,000 to get us started. The only banker willing to loan us anything was Frank Murkowski. All the banks were a little afraid of offending the oil industry by helping us out. One of the fears the industry had was that the Eskimos were going to tax them out of existence."
Leavitt recalls the 1973 special session of the Alaska Legislature, when the Borough faced the tax cap. "The sole purpose of that session was to pass legislation which would place limits on the ability of the North Slope Borough to tax the oil industry."
"It was a dream you have," Leavitt recalls the motivation that led the early leaders to find the solutions they did. "You dream 'my kids will never have to go through what I had to.' Here is great opportunity, when you are discussing oil. We could have watched it go by. The American Indians had to watch history go by, they had to watch the entire development of America go by, because they were on reservations.
"We had learned something from that. We were not going to watch history go by; we were going to make history. Today, it is most gratifying to see that our kids have the opportunity to go to good schools, at home. We have created scholarships, and now our students can go to colleges anywhere in the nation. There is great opportunity out there for our students. This was among the dreams of ASNA."
When the Assembly sat down to work out and approve a capital improvements program to build all the things the North Slope had never known before, they found themselves with an unexpected problem. "We were a small group of people who had never worked with money before," he explains. "In 1972, we thought $50,000 was quite a lot of money. Suddenly, we were working with millions." With so much to be done, and with such suddenly expanded opportunity, there were many, both in and outside the Assembly, who wanted a big say in the process. Although their end goals may have been basically the same, it is impossible to get a large group of people together anywhere without experiencing considerable disagreement.
"There were great differences in philosophy," Leavitt recalls. "People had their own ideas on how we should do things." There were internal struggles and political battles. There was jealousy, and anger."
In time these problems diminished. "Once we experienced a degree of success, it became easier for people to work together," Leavitt notes.
Still, in government, there will always be differences. "Jacob and I used to have great arguments in terms of philosophy." Leavitt notes of his best friend. "And we were a lot more conservative then Eben." In his eagerness to help his people obtain the things they had not had, Leavitt believed Hopson wanted to go too far in having the Borough provide their needs. It was Leavitt's philosophy that the Borough should, roll back a bit, and let the people, through their own enterprise, find solutions to many of their problems, and develop the skills to do so.
"When a washing machine breaks down," Leavitt explains. "You can wait for someone from the Borough to come and fix it, or you can have someone right in the village, using the free enterprise system, who will find the training and skills to come and fix it instead. You won't take away their self pride."
Thus, people working for the same ends often disagreed, and out of this struggle has emerged the North Slope Borough students know today.
Leavitt feels good about the changes that have come. Sitting in the spacious, glass-encased conference room on the third floor of the Barrow ASRC building - the one that is reachable by the first elevator ever built in the U.S. Arctic - Leavitt notes the comfort and style of his surroundings.
"It is hard to put into words how gratifying it is to sit in an office like this, and think how it was, not many years ago, when we had to get ice, and melt it with a Coleman stove to wash our face. There is great satisfaction in working with people, your own people, to bring about the kind of changes we have on the North Slope. You're helping change, and yet maintaining the ability to whale, and to subsist from the land.
"If you're going to have subsistence and whaling, it also takes cash to fight for it. Because if you don't have dollars to fight for it, somebody is going to take it away from you. I think this may be the greatest benefit we have today from the North Slope Borough, and from ASRC. We are still whaling, because we have had the cash to fight for it."
Yet, material progress creates its own problems.
Though life was harsh during his childhood days, there was also much that was good about it. "When you are young and you are living this way, you don't know any different. You still find ways to have a wonderful time. Teenagers now, they have a lot more free time. They don't always know what to do with it. Sometimes, they do a lot of crazy things. Back then, when we got the chores done in our own house, we would be sent to help our aunt and uncle, or our aapa and aaka. We would do the same chores all over again. We would go out and get ice, chop wood. It was a full day of work. There was no time to do crazy things."
Leavitt urges today's students to seek an education, and to prepare for their own future battles. In the future, the improvements and benefits brought to the North Slope by the Borough could yet be lost.
"The Borough must always be mindful of its tax base," he explains. "If the tax base is starting on a decline, the Borough must find a way to make a transition to another tax base." While the giant oil fields of Prudhoe Bay have been the economic foundation of the Borough since its founding, production from those fields have already entered a time of decline. Someday, the oil will be gone and the industry will pull out of Prudhoe Bay altogether.
Oil is not the only natural wealth in the Inupiat homeland. Of all nations in the world, the United States has by far the greatest riches in coal. More than half of these reserves are in Alaska. The North Slope has the greatest concentrations in Alaska.
The mountains of the Brooks Range are laced with many hard-rock minerals, such as the huge zinc reserves of the Red Dog Mine. This vast mineral wealth holds the potential to provide economic stability to the borough, its people, and their enterprise for centuries to come. There is likely much more oil as well in places such as the coastal plain of thc Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Yet many forces would prevent the Inupiat from ever developing the wealth of their homeland. The world as a whole still considers the North Slope to be remote, and inaccessible. No good transportation system exists to ship these resources to the Lower 48, Japan, and the rest of the world. Putting in the net work of roads, rails, and ports would prove very expensive - so much so that no one has been willing to pay for it up to now.
Thanks to Prudhoe Bay and the pipeline, oil from ANWR already has a route south. Yet, environmentalists continue to fight opening ANWR, and have so far succeeded it preventing its development. The tax base ANWR development would provide for the North Slope Borough would allow it to maintain and expand services and facilities into the future. Both ASRC and the Kaktovik Inupiat Corporation own lands within ANWR. ASRC can drill on these lands, but is forbidden by law from producing any oil from its own property.
Leavitt believes ANWR could provide the economic base to establish the infrastructure necessary to allow coal and minerals to be mined and marketed world wide once ANWR itself declined.
"Opening ANWR," Leavitt feels, "should be the number one priority of the Borough. This would give us a time of transition to get into mining. and it would give us a tax base not limited to just one industry. Right now, if the price of oil plummets, so do we. But if there is coal, and hard rock minerals, and oil plummets, we have other resources to depend upon. In order to get into coal, we have to get into world markets. We have to get into places like Japan. All of this is going to take years to develop.
"My fear is that if we don't start another industry, the North Slope could well become just another world class ghetto. Once you turn a page, you can't go back. Your standards, your expectations, grow higher. We have had a bite of the apple here. We can not go back in history.
"The thing that we have got to learn is the ability to deal with the outside world. When our country is going to develop a world class mine, such as Red Dog, as an industry, permission to do so must first come from Congress. Your ability as a people to profit it from your own resources is set by the environmentalists. You have to have the ability to prove to Congress that you are not going to scar the land. You have to prove you can do it safely. You have to be able to articulate your position in Congress. You have to be able to argue for your position, against some of the most skilled lawyers and 1obbyists in the world. "That is why our young people must take advantage of these schools we have built them."
The Fight for Whaling
"Father, our people have always looked upon your creation with love and respect. and as your gift for our survival. Without your food, we would not be who and where we are today, and we kindly share among ourselves what only you can provide for us.
"We are experiencing hard times, for there are people among the countless Western societies who live only to obey their leaders. We earnestly pray that you will let them see our universal feelings. We need to have our own ways if we are to survive.. Please guide us on the right path to live by. We need true strength, for without this strength, nobody can think for themselves nor have the words to express themselves, not even a breath to breathe." - Panigoak Ipalook, at the time of the IWC ban on whaling.
"Let there be peace in your conscience... I have to live by your comments. Hunger knows no law." - Sam Taalak, speaking at a meeting with an official of the National Marine Fisheries.
When Kuupaq was a boy of 15, he did well on the trapline, and gathered many fox skins. His father suggested that he take his earnings, and outfit himself to go whaling. And so, at an age when most American boys worry about pimples and the latest fashion, Harry Brower acquired an umiaq and the implements needed to catch a bowhead whale; he became a whaling captain.
His crew caught nothing that first year, but not many more seasons passed before Kupaaq and his brother Arnold found themselves waiting at the edge of the ice with a harpoon and shoulder gun. With them were seven crew members. A whale surfaced, then swam directly to them, as though offering itself. Kupaaq thrust the harpoon. The whale disappeared briefly, then rose to the surface, turned a flipper into the air, and was dead. There was no need to even put the umiaq into the water.
"That whale was 65 feet long," Kupaaq remembered in later years, shortly before his death. "It had baleen 15 feet long." Kupaaq would go on to become one of Barrow's most successful captains. He would not only catch many whales, but would see and observe many wonderful things out on the ice. He would talk often with other captains, and listen to them tell of the things they saw. The hunters would also share whaling stories passed down from ancient ancestors.
To Kupaaq, whaling was how one lived on Alaska's Arctic coast. The thought of not whaling did not occur to him. Bowhead was the single most important food of his people. They shared a spiritual tie to the whale. Whalers were supposed to live right, to keep their camps clean and organized, and their thoughts positive. Otherwise, why would a whale want to give itself to them? Without the whale, the feasts and celebrations the people held at the beginning of summer and during Thanksgiving and Christmas would not happen. The sharing that bound the community together would not take place.
So Kupaaq never thought about not whaling. He could see there were many whales, and the people needed them. They would always whale.
In 1977, Kupaaq received a terrible shock. An organization from far away called the International Whaling Commission suddenly announced that there were so few bowheads left in the world that the Inupiat hunters must stop whaling.
Scientists working with the National Marine Fisheries Service, (NMFS) which operated under the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) said there were no more than 1800 bowheads left - and possibly there were as few as 600. If the bowhead was to be saved, the Inupiat must hunt no more, IWC decided.
Compared to Kupaaq, the scientists had spent very little time on the ice. They had not seen what he had seen. They did not know what he knew. "We were trying to explain everything to them," Kupaaq recalled, "but they wouldn't listen. I was trying to tell them, 'you don't see the whales because they go under the ice, and don't show up in the lead. They come up in the young ice. They push their nose up, put a crack in the ice, and breathe. Then all those belugas follow, come up, and breathe, too.
"We've seen it, so many springs!"
The IWC and the world did not believe Kupaaq and his fellow hunters. They were, after all, just "Eskimos" with little formal schooling. What value were their words, against those of scientists?
The NMFS scientists had first ventured onto the ice off Barrow in 1973. They set up camp sites along the lead system, and began to count whales. They also watched the hunters.
People around the world were expressing concern for the survival of the great whales. Commercial whalers hunting from large ships for money had caught so many whales that many species had been brought to the edge of destruction. People worried that soon, many of the great whales, including bowheads would disappear forever.
The Inupiat did not hunt whales for money. They hunted for food, just as their ancestors had for unnumbered centuries. Whale flesh fed their body, the hunt renewed their souls.
Ernie Frankson tells how, long ago, a Point Hope man by the name of Katauq left his body to travel with the whales. They gave his spirit a parka. When he put it on he appeared as a whale. During his travels with the bowheads. Katauq learned of their ways. He learned of the attributes the whales looked for in hunters before giving themselves to them. The whales taught Katauq that good-spirited hunters always share their catch to ensure that even the most feeble elders, the widows, and the orphans would eat.
Hunting whales had nothing to do with earning money; it was about food and nutrition, culture and spiritual well-being. Hamburger could never take its place. Many people raised on whale found they actually became ill without subsistence food. For centuries, the Inupiat had hunted bowheads, yet never endangered the whale population.
Still, many "conservationists" sought the end of commercial and subsistence hunting.
The IWC had originally been organized by whaling nations to manage commercial whale catches in all the globe's oceans. Now, many IWC nations, including the U.S. wanted to ban commercial whaling. The U.S. also had a trust responsibility to protect the aboriginal rights of its Native people.
Inupiat subsistence whaling is an aboriginal right.
When the IWC first called for the end of commercial whaling, they had made an exemption to allow subsistence whaling. In response, the U.S. placed the bowhead whale on the endangered species act. In 1972, Congress enacted the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Under this act. no marine mammals could be hunted. except by Alaska Natives.
Under this law, the Native hunt could be controlled if the government determined a marine mammal population to be "depleted." In 1973, Congress amended the act to give the U.S. Secretary of the Interior legal authority to regulate Native subsistence hunting any time he believed there was a need for it.
In 1977, as the IWC was using NMFS bowhead population numbers to prepare its case to end Inupiat whale hunting, the Borough learned that NMFS was about to declare the bowhead a "depleted" species. Then, at a meeting in Canberra, Australia, the IWC voted to impose a "moratorium" on the Alaskan subsistence bowhead hunt.
Only one organization spoke up on behalf of the whalers - the North Slope Borough. Federal law required that before a species could be declared "depleted" public hearings must be held. A protest by the Borough insured that, at the very least, a public heating process would provide the opportunity to challenge the science NMFS had used to conclude the bowhead population was dangerously low. Backed by the Borough and ASRC, angry whalers living all along the arctic coast from Kaktovik to St. Lawrence Island gathered in Barrow on August 29. To spearhead the fight to protect their ancient subsistence rights, the hunters organized the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission.
To this day, AEWC has had no stronger supporter than the 'North Slope Borough. Over the years, the Borough has directly supported AEWC with appropriations of NSB money, and by helping the organization secure federal and state grants. The Borough has also made its considerable scientific and technical capabilities and expertise available to AEWC.
It would have been easy for the U.S. to show its support of Native subsistence whaling, and to ensure an uninterrupted hunt. All the government had to do was to file a formal objection against the moratorium with the IWC. If the U.S. did not object, as a member nation of the IWC it would be expected to enforce the quota.
Unwilling to offend conservation groups, and fearing a strong stand for traditional subsistence whaling would somehow weaken the U.S. fight against commercial whaling, the federal government refused to object.
Backed by the administration of Eben Hopson, AEWC then sued to force the U.S. to honor its Native trust responsibilities and to file the objection. U.S. Federal District Court Judge John Sirica ruled in favor of AEWC, but was overturned on appeal.
AEWC and the North Slope Borough continued to fight for the hunters. Moratorium or no moratorium, Mayor Hopson declared, the Inupiat would hunt in 1978.
At a special meeting of the IWC in Tokyo, Japan, in December of 1977, IWC relented slightly and issued a small quota. The quota limited the entire hunt to just 12 landed bowheads for all nine Alaska whaling villages. If fewer than 12 were landed after a total of 18 whales had been struck, the hunt would end.
In 1977, Point Hope alone had landed 12 whales. Twelve whales could never feed the entire Arctic coast.
Anger and frustration grew in every village. There was talk about defying the quota, talk of ignoring both the IWC and the U.S. government, talk of hunters following only Inupiat law, and hunting the bowhead as they always had.
After much heated discussion, the hunters of AEWC finally agreed that, whatever the pain, they would not exceed the 1978 quota. They would press the government for better science. They would try and prove to the world through science what every Inupiat already knew: the bowhead population was strong and healthy. There was no good reason for so tiny a quota.
Then, the hunters hoped, IWC and the U.S. government would back off and interfere no more with the subsistence bowhead hunt. Thus, despite the deep pain in their hearts, the whale hunters moved onto the ice in the spring of 1978, then moved off again after only 12 whales had been caught. despite the fact hundreds more continued to swim past.
Just as the hunters had hoped the NMFS count improved. Counters recorded 1785 whale sightings. Following a mathematical formula, government scientists concluded this meant there were 2264 bowhead.
From their own sightings, the hunters knew there were far more bowheads than this. Still, it was a great improvement over the earlier NMFS estimate of as few as 600. After consultation with NMFS the AEWC leadership believed they had government support to establish a new quota based on population estimates. It was believed they could strike up to two percent of the bowheads with no damage to the population.
This would be 45 whales.
AEWC hunters journeyed off to the 1978 IWC meeting, held in London, England, in good spirits. Forty-five whales would be far better than 12.
Three Inupiats were among the official members of the U.S. delegation to IWC: NSB Mayor Eben Hopson, AEWC Chairman Jacob Adams, and Barrow Whaling Captains Association President Arnold Brower, Sr.
After their arrival, the hunters hopes were quashed. Although the U.S. had advanced the two percent proposal, the government was not willing to insist upon it. Many nations of the IWC were now intent on imposing a "zero" quota on the Alaskan whalers. Again, science the whalers knew to be wrong was being advanced within the IWC scientific committee, claiming only 16 bowhead calves had been born during the year.
Backers of this theory argued that if even only 12 whales had been landed, and 18 struck, and if all these died, this alone meant two more whales had been killed by hunters than had been born. Certainly, there were bowheads dying by other means. This would mean the population was shrinking, and all hunting should end.
In London, the whalers were treated rudely. Their requests for meeting space, xerox machines, and typewriters were all denied. With help from the Borough, AEWC had produced the documentary film, Hunger Knows No Law, which presented the Inupiat view of subsistence whaling. AEWC was not allowed to show the film. Only after a bitter fight did the whalers succeed in battling down the "0" quota. IWC voted for a slight quota increase: 18 landed whales or 27 struck.
"Despite the good faith efforts to abide by an unjust quota of 12 landed or 18 struck whales during 1978," AEWC chairman Jacob Adams stated. "the IWC ignored the proposal of the United States to permit a hunt at a level to meet nutritional and cultural needs. The IWC ignored the advice of the people who know most about the bowhead whale and who are most interested in its conservation."
After the meeting, three Inupiat whalers filed a lawsuit, Hopson vs. Kreps, against the U.S. government.
Mayor Eben Hopson, Lloyd Ahvakana, and Elijah Rock of Point Hope charged that whale hunting regulations imposed by the U.S. government on behalf of the IWC quota were illegal.
In what would prove to be a legal battle three years in length, Hopson, Ahvakana, and Rock argued that the 1946 international treaty under which the IWC functioned allowed
jurisdiction only over commercial whaling. IWC had no say over subsistence, the hunters contended. Under its trust responsibility, the U.S. government was required to protect the subsistence hunt.
As all this was happening, the Borough invested its resources ever deeper into the scientific census effort. From their own observations, the hunters knew there were far more than even 2264 whales. It was time to prove it to the world.
At the urging of state legislators Frank Ferguson, Leo Schaeffer, John Sackett and Thelma Buchholdt, the state joined in the effort, appropriating $250,000 for a new census.
At the Borough's insistence, Inupiats would be involved in every step. Who was more skilled at observing whales than they? Yet many hunters were opposed to the idea. After all, scientists spouting numbers the hunters knew to be wrong had caused all the problems in the first place.
Among the scientists destined to play a major roll in what would become a decade long census effort was Dr. Thomas Albert. After a whale was caught, Albert sought permission to enter the camp of the captain to obtain whale specimens for study. The angry young captain ordered him to leave.
It was then that an older whaler - Kupaaq, Harry Brower, Sr. - stepped in. Kupaaq knew the Inupiat would only win their battle on the world stage if they could teach the world at least a small part of what the hunters already knew. No matter what the hunters said, the world was not going to believe them until a scientist said the same thing.
In his gentle but firm way. Kupaaq talked to the young whaler. The young captain relented, apologized, and invited Albert in. Later, during his two terms as mayor, the captain, George Ahmaogak. would be a staunch backer of the Borough's science program.
In earlier studies of marmots and foxes, Kupaaq and Dr. Albert had worked together. They had learned to trust and respect one another.
"Everything Harry had ever told me about marmots had proven true," Albert now the Borough's senior scientist, recounted many years later. "Everything he had ever told me about foxes had proven true. I had great faith, great trust, in the guy. A good hunter is a good natural observer. Harry's not the only one. There are others out there just as great as he was. But Harry is the one I knew, the one 1 had worked with. 1 felt if he said this was what the whales were doing. then it must be true."
The question now was how to prove it. Thanks to the vision of the hunter Kupaaq, and the open mind of the scientist Albert and others like them, hunters and scientists would finally be able to work together.
Consulting with top scientists from throughout the nation, Borough scientists put together an "acoustics" program.
Four hydrophones - underwater micro phones capable of indicating the direction from which a sound was coming, would. be placed in the water along the lead.
If a passing whale gave off any sounds or songs. the hydrophones would hear it. By drawing lines on a map in the direction of the sounds. the scientists could look at the point where the lines from the different hydrophones came together and know that was where the whale that had made the sound had been. They could identify and count whales that spotters on the edge of the lead would never see.
Over the years, the acoustics program would prove Kupaaq right.
Albert recalled a period when the lead was open and scientists calculated that 242 whales went by. "Of these, 49 were actually seen and heard, and 58 were only seen. So over half of these whales, 135, were only heard, and never seen. And where were they? They were beyond the vision of the whale counting people. They were out there a couple of miles, and under the ice."
Albert adds that during a period when the lead was closed, the visual census takers spotted only three whales, which popped up in little tiny openings in the ice. During the same time, acoustics census takers located 142 whales. Underneath the ice. Then, biologists Craig George and Geoff Carroll observed bowheads breaking ice to breath.
Now that scientists had observed what Kupaaq had seen, the world was ready to believe it.
Earlier, in June of 1980, the political battle was as hot as it had ever been.
AEWC chairman Jacob Adams learned that an Interior Department report recommended an increased bowhead quota of no less than 24 landed, with as many as 33, was needed to meet the needs of the Alaska hunting communities.
New optimism sprang up in the whaling community with the anticipation of a new quota reflecting these numbers.
Yet, once again, these hopes were smashed by scientific data the whalers know to be false. NMFS presented Interior with a report declaring the bowhead population to be so depleted it could never recover. Within 100 years, NMFS said, the bowhead population would disappear forever.
Opponents of the bowhead hunt again raised the battle cry for a zero quota. Inupiat hunters attending IWC meetings ware greeted by protesters carrying signs condemning them as killers.
Inupiats were depicted as wanton sports hunters. Whale "conservationists" told the world that, after slaughtering whales as "blood sport," the Inupiat sold their carcasses to Japanese factory ships. Ridiculous as this sounds, there were many ready to believe it.
A prominent "conservationist" lawyer, Tom Garrett, condemned whaling. Garrett told the world the Inupiat was a "bastardized culture" far removed from the true whale hunters of old. The hunt was an outdated ritual which should be abolished, Garret charged. During the IWC meeting in Brighton, England, the Netherlands called for a "0" quota. Despite considerable support, the motion fell short of the three-quarters majority vote needed, and failed. The IWC membership finally passed a three year "roll-over" quota of 45 whales, no more than 17 of which. could be taken in any single year.
By now, Hopson vs. Kreps had been dismissed in Federal District Court, appealed, and sent back for reconsideration. Shortly after the death of Mayor Eben Hopson, officials in the Carter administration ordered a federal investigation to determine if Native hunters had exceeded the quota.
In October of 1981 Natives from across the state were gathering in Anchorage for the annual Alaska Federation of Natives convention. A federal grand jury chose this time to subpoena Barrow whalers Lloyd Ahvakana and Eugene Brower, along with Rossman Peetook of Wainwright and Roger Silook of Gambell to testify before it in Anchorage.
In what would become a vicious battle characterized by U.S. Senator Ted Stevens as "an outrage, a despotic attempt to intimidate the Arctic Slope Eskimos," the grand jury battered the hunters. Stevens had spoken strongly on behalf of the hunters many times.
Threatening them repeatedly with "contempt of court," the Grand Jury tried to force the hunters to incriminate fellow whalers.
All refused to answer any of the grand jury's questions. AFN passed a resolution condemning the "oppressive investigation" as "ill conceived and destructive harassment of the Inupiat Community". After a bitter stand-off, U.S. District Court Judge yon der Heydt over-ruled the grand jury. Heydl declared the subpoenas to be a denial of the hunters' "freedom of association rights."
Tension ran high as crews prepared for the 1981 spring hunt. For three years, the hunters had honored a quota they considered unjust in the hopes their cooperation would lead to something better.
After all this, they were restricted to only 17 whales. More hunters were talking openly about ignoring the quota. Media reports raised speculation that federal enforcement efforts might mark the beginning of a new "war" between the United States and its Native citizens.
Hunters spoke strongly for their rights. "Our body fluids are mixed with the blood of the animals, with the oil of the animals, like the Eskimos of old who used the same animals, Point Hope elder Patrick Attungana stated.
"This is what has hurt us: the White People, our government, made regulations about our Animals. And because we have this obedience, it has been three, four years that we did what they told us to do, whatever they want us to do, we obeyed. "This is what is in my mind now: That's enough! You have made us to suffer long enough, you have made us feel like we were in jail. We need to be in harmony today, making it easier concerning our Animals... We are thinking, hoping, that there be harmony concerning the animals that we hunt."
Finally, the government backed off.
In March of 1981, AEWC and NOAA entered a two year "cooperative management agreement." It was agreed that under AEWC, Inupiat and St. Lawrence Island hunters would manage their own hunt. They would provide daily reports to NOAA as to how many strikes and landings had been made, in addition to information on the sex and size of the whale, and of any fetus whales found inside a female.
The strike quota was raised to 32 bowheads, although AEWC would be required to collect a $1,000 "civil monetary assessment" for each whale struck after 17 were landed. There would be no jail sentences, and no federal prosecution in any such case. Although the idea of even a $1000 fine for catching a whale was a bitter one, the hunters agreed among themselves that if a village were to share the costs, doing so would be better than going without.
On April 17, 1981, the U.S. Department of Justice ended its investigation of Inupiat subsistence whaling. Although the struggle was far from over, the worst times had passed.
With the help of Kupaaq and others like him, Borough scientists have proven to the world that the bowhead population is healthy, and growing. Using the acoustics program, counters were able to locate many whales never seen by the ice-based counters. Airplane surveys sponsored by the Federal Government and the oil industry have backed up the Borough-led census efforts. The official "best estimate" for the bowhead population now stands at 7,800 with perhaps as many as 10,600 bowheads, and no fewer than 5,700.
The same studies have shown that calves are being born at healthy rates. The bowhead population is most likely growing. These numbers, and all the data the Borough has gathered has been studied carefully by the most skeptical scientists in the IWC - the very same people who once said there were as few as 600 bowhead whales. Even they have agreed it is good.
In 1989, Steven Braund and Associates released a report detailing historical bowhead harvests between 1910 and 1969, coupled with an analysis of the nutritional and cultural needs of the whaling community today.
Braund concluded that to completely meet these needs, the whaling communities needed to land at least 41 whales.
This information, coupled with the improved population reports, has led to a dramatically improved quota, which now stands at 47 landed, or 57 struck.
In the spring and fall seasons of 1992, Barrow hunters landed 22 whales, which were shared with villages landing no whales.
When Patsy Aamodt first started teaching school at Point Hope in 1973, the North Slope Borough School District was so short resources she didn't even have the paper her students needed to do their writing and math.
"On my way to a conference in Fairbanks," she recalls, "I stopped in Kotzebue. I had to ask other teachers if they had any extra paper that I could take back to my students in Point Hope.
"They gave me paper that had already been used on one side. I brought it back and this is what my students had to use. That is how strapped we were for resources."
Aamodt also remembers receiving a paycheck with a footprint on it.
Today, she serves as Superintendent over the same school district. None of the teachers working under her have to borrow used paper from schools elsewhere in the state. Their students have not only paper, but new computers upon which to work their lessons; they are able to communicate instantly, both by voice and sight, with students and teachers in schools hundreds of miles away.
"Our primary focus was just to keep our schools open," Aamodt says, "just to make certain they had fuel to keep our students warm, that we had water and electricity. This has changed. Now we am able to focus on instruction, on providing our students an education."
Even so, the struggles Aamodt and her husband went through marked a big step forward in education on the North Slope.
"Our education was dictated by one federal agency," Roy Nageak, president of the NSBSD school board, remembers. "The U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs. This agency determined who would get an education, what kind of education we would get, and whether we would be allowed to go on to high school.
"If we did go to high school, we went far from our home, our culture, and our language. Our parents had no choice in this matter, and neither did we. The destruction to our language and our families, and our tradition was simply not addressed."
When the NSB was organized, Florence Ahmaogak, Harry Kaleak. Al Schontz, Joseph Upicksoun, and Annie Brower were voted in as the first school board.
"Never before had Native Americans taken control of their children's education back from the federal government," Nageak notes. "Never before had any Native American group had an opportunity to create an education setting in which their language and culture would not only be encouraged, but would be a part of their daily life in school."
It was not an easy task, and it did not happen all at once. The first schools brought into the NSBSD were those in the villages of Point Hope and Anaktuvuk Pass, in 1972. It would take until 1975 to complete the transition from the BIA and bring Barrow into the district.
At first, North Slope parents had to rely pretty much on the same facilities and educators who had been here under the BIA system. It would take time to make the transition to hire a new staff, and to construct the modern schools that are in every village today.
Many of these educators were used to doing whatever it was they saw fit in running North Slope schools. The new board was determined this would change.
Nageak recalls an incident when the board and a school administrator had a difference of opinion on a policy matter. After disagreeing with the school board the administrator was telling them how things would actually be done. Then the late Annie Brower spoke up.
"No! No! No!" she boomed. "You don't tell us what to do! WE tell you what to do." And they did.
With this kind of say, North Slope parents began to bring changes into the system. No longer were students punished for speaking Inupiat in the classroom. Unfortunately, they had been punished for so long that many simply could no longer speak their own language. Now, Inupiat would be taught in the classroom.
Although many difficulties and challenges remain, Aamodt has seen steady improvement since she first came. In her early days, she faced a Superintendent who did not want to believe that she, a Native teacher, could provide the same caliber of teaching as non-Native teachers, or that she could ever assume a management role. It would take years of diligent work and study before she could earn the position she now has.
The caliber of teaching has improved dramatically, Aamodt says. "It used to be that were we desperate just to get teachers to fill all the jobs." As a result, not all of the teachers were of the highest quality.
Now, the school district holds teachers to a high standard. If they do not meet it, they are not hired. If they do not main- tain it, they do not stay.
"Homework was something we never had in the past," Aamodt recalls. "Now we have homework."
Perhaps to some students, life without homework sounds good. The school board, however, has set a goal that acade- mically, students of the North Slope will excel to levels as high as those of young people anywhere in America.
Just a few years ago, Borough students scored in the
bottom eight percent of all students in the United States on standardized testing.
In a short time, that average has risen to 50 percent, putting our students at an average level. Now, the goal, Aamodt says, is to raise scores into the upper academic levels.
In doing so, Aamodt says many problems must yet to be solved. Fewer students are dropping out now than once did, although many still have a problem with absenteeism.
Recently, Aamodt got together with a group of North Slope fifth graders. "How many of you plan to graduate?" she asked. All raised their hands. Then she asked how many knew older students who had dropped out and never graduated. Each student did. Aamodt then asked the students to list reasons why their peers had dropped out.
Many reasons were given, but alcohol and drag abuse, either among the students or their families, topped the list. Aamodt then had the students fill out a card, stating that they would graduate, and on what date. She also had them write down the reasons why they wanted to graduate, and the difference that doing so could make in their lives.
Then she asked them, and an adult, to sign it, and then to put it in a place they could see it every day. If students keep this goal in their minds, Aamodt promises, they can and will graduate.
"Never give up on yourselves," she encourages, "remember, 'I can if I think I can.' And you can!"
Arctic Sivunmun Ilisagvik College
When Doreen Adams graduated as the salutatorian of the Barrow High School class of 1990, she wanted to go to college and study Inupiaq. Not long ago, Adams would have had one course of action available to her if she were to reach this goal: she would have had to leave home to attend school in an urban area. Yet, as strongly as she desired a college education, she also wanted to remain home.
The University of Alaska at Fairbanks has an excellent Inupiaq studies program. Still, Adams felt she would be better off at first if she could take courses in Barrow, where the language is actually spoken in daily conversation. "There is bet- ter opportunity for me here," she explained, "I can get eye to eye contact with the Elders, the people who really speak Inupiaq. That really helps me with my studies."
Adams solved her problem by enrolling in Arctic Sivunmun Ilisagvik College in Barrow. The college was established in the early days of the Ahmaogak Administration, and continues to grow under Jeslie Kaleak.
It is the fulfillment of one of Mayor Eben Hopson's dreams, which he sought to reach in his lifetime with the establishment of the ill-fated Inupiat University of the Arctic. Dale Stotts serves on ASI board, and was also involved in the IUA. He has twice filled the roll of chairman to the ASI board.
"Those of us who have supported the creation of a higher learning center have shared a common vision," Stotts explains the reasoning behind the college. "We have sought to control our destiny as a people through training and education. This way, we can equip our leadership to face the challenges of the modern world era, and entry into the western economy, and a smaller global environment.
"Technology has made the world somewhat condensed. For our people to keep pace we need higher education and training." Since its beginning, the college has enjoyed a strong working relationship with the University of Alaska. Although 90 percent of the funding has come from the Borough, the university has provided a number of free services, has shared faculty and educational materials. and has made certain the instruction given in ASI courses is equal in quality to that given on any University of Alaska campus.
Credits earned at ASI are fully transferable to UA. Now, $totts notes, the school is working on its "candidacy for accreditation." This is expected to be a five to seven year process, but when it is complete, credits carried at ASI will be transferable to virtually any college or university in the country.
Currently, ASI students can earn a full, two year Associate of Arts degree without ever leaving home. Classes are spread about in many buildings throughout Barrow and the villages. Teachers in Barrow or in a village communicate with students in other communi- ties by teleconference, In the future, they hope to be able to use compressed video so that teachers and students hundreds of miles apart can both see and talk to each other, as is now being doing within the North Slope Borough School District.
Stotts credits several factors which have led to the success of ASI where IUA had tailed. "At IUA, we set out to become a four year college right off the bat," Stotts recalls. "Now we are taking more of a community college approach, and seeking accreditation." Also, Stotts notes, IUA was founded at the time when the building boom was taking off. Young students fresh out of high school could earn very high wages on the job, and had little incentive to go to school.
The private sector was just establishing itself on the North Slope, and was thinking little of local college involvement.
Now, things have changed. As the boom has slowed down, Stotts says, there are not so many high paying jobs. More people keep moving into the Borough from outside, and local people find they must have more education and training if they are to compete with them for jobs.
Private sector employees, such as ASRC, UIC, and all village corporations have seen the need to get further training for their people. While the board has always been composed of members from each village on the Slope, it has been expanded to include repre- sentatives of the private sector, and the major employers on the Slope, including the Borough, ASRC, and ARCO. Computers have also played a big roll in the colleges advancement.
"Computers are popping up on just about any job you can think of," Stotts notes. "People need to learn about computers. The college is a good place to learn."
In response to the concerns of the community, the college is offering more technical training.
In cooperation with the University of Alaska and the State library system, the Borough has established a library in Barrow to serve both the college and the community at large. Tuzzy Librarian Gaylin S. Fuller personally examined each one of a collection of over 40,000 books in the state system and claimed the best 10,000 for Tuzzy Library, in addition to 10,000 the Borough already owned.
This Land is My Land
During the movement for Native land claims, Johnny Adams composed the above song, translated here from the Inupiaq he sings it in, to honor his brother, Jacob, and all those so often gone from home to fight for Inupiat land rights.
This land is my land
From the mountains to the ocean,
Place where I was born
Land - where I will make my home.
This land is my land
From the Mountains to the ocean
Land my father respects
Home of the Inupiat
Their only means of survival
Along the rivers and the lakes
Fish are abundant
Coastal Inupiats are on a hung
Hunting whales on the ice
I hear their shout of success
I listen with anticipation
Following the wildlife
From the mountain streams to the ocean
My father said
"I will survive."
As I follow my father
Walking hand in hand
Our sun is warm
My father said to me.